LONDON UK. (Jan 23) Maintaining medicine stockpiles in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit will depend on the government securing priority shipping routes through a number of alternative ports to Dover. About 75% of all medicines are imported and 80 million packets of medicine pass back and forth between the UK and Europe every month, much of it over the “narrow straights” over which Dover-Calais is the primary route.
Danish company Novo Nordisk manufactures more than half the UK’s insulin, the majority of which is imported through the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel to about 500,000 patients.
The company has stockpiled 18 weeks’ supply in preparation for no deal and chartered air freight space as a back up in the event of disruption.
A no-deal Brexit would see the UK leave the EU without any agreements in place for what the future relationship will look like.
Novo Nordisk’s UK general manager, Pinder Sahota, said that establishing alternatives to Dover was crucial to ensure supplies could be replenished.
He explained: “Stockpiling is one of the solutions but it is not the only solution. The replenishment of the stock post-Brexit is the next phase, and there are certain factors beyond our control here.
“The delays are unknown, which is why we have built the stocks, why we have booked air freight, and we will be looking to other ports as well in addition to Dover.
“Dover is the key one where it all comes through today, but we would welcome Poole, Felixstowe, Hull (Immingham), Portsmouth, as many as possible to make sure that the disruption can be minimised.”
Asked if he was reassured that the government was sufficiently prepared, Mr Sahota said: “We would welcome clarity on that as soon as possible… We are comforted that plans are going to be put in place but would welcome some certainty.”
Mr Sahota’s warning comes as news sources revealed that Border Force analysis predicts a reduction in trade through Dover of more than 80% for up to six months in the event of no deal.
It also highlights concerns expressed across the health sector, including among senior NHS figures, that despite extensive planning medical supplies could be derailed by factors beyond their control, primarily transport and customs arrangements.
The Department of Health and Social Care has warned that disruption could continue for up to six months, and has asked pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks of supplies of medicines.
It is also finalising the last of three contracts for storage of up to 5,000 pallets of medicines. The deals are understood to include repurposing existing warehouses with refrigeration.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care said it recognised the “vital importance” of the medicine supply chain and had secured space on the routes highlighted by the pharmaceutical industry.
A spokesperson said: “The government has secured additional capacity on a variety of routes including ferries into and out of Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe, where medicines will be prioritised.
“We have asked manufacturers to build up six weeks’ additional stocks of medicines and we are confident that, if everyone does what they should do, the supply of medicines will be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal.”
DHSC has also instructed hospital trusts, GPs and pharmacists not to stockpile and warned patients to continue receiving prescriptions as normal.
Daniel Green, who has a degenerative eye condition linked to his Type 1 diabetes, said he is stockpiling by eating smaller meals, or missing them altogether, in order to preserve insulin.
“I literally depend on insulin for my life and I have not had the guarantees I need from by doctor to take any risks,” he said. “I get a month’s supply of insulin at a time and that is all I can get, so I am stockpiling and to do that I have to look at what I am eating.
“The government said that we would be in control of everything by this point and we are not. Everything is just in chaos, so I am certainly not going to trust them with my health and my well-being at the moment.”
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