The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care is setting up a service to deliver emergency medicines into the UK within one to four days as the country prepares for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
The department is offering a £25 million contract to set up an express freight service to deliver drugs and drug products into the country, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31st October.
Getting badly-needed supplies to the UK will be a priority after Brexit and the government is keen to draw a line under the Seaborne Freight fiasco, when it emerged that a company hired by former transport secretary Chis Grayling to operate extra ferries as part of Brexit plans had no ships.
Under the remit of a different department, the new service will cover all of the UK and is intended to deliver small parcels of medical products on a 24-hour basis, with additional capacity to move larger pallets on a two or four day basis.
It’s anticipated that most drugs delivered will be standard medicines, but the express freight service can also deliver temperature-controlled products if needed.
The contract will run for 12 months, with a possible 12-month extension and has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Potential bidders have until 21st August to submit proposals and successful providers are expected to be announced in September.
According to the DH the contract is likely to only cost the taxpayer up to £4 million, and is supported by the £2 billion Brexit fund already announced by the government.
It is intended to support existing plans to create medicine stockpiles and ensuring regulations are clarified to allow companies to continue to sell their products in the UK in a no-deal scenario.
The government has also bought additional warehouse capacity and supported companies to improve logistics and supply chains to meet customs and border requirements.
Health minister Chris Skidmore said: “This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.”
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) trade body, said: “Pharmaceutical companies have been doing everything in their power to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU, including increasing stocks and planning alternative supply routes where possible. But some things are outside of their control.
“We welcome these important additional measures to help get medicines to patients in the event of a no deal Brexit. Companies look forward to the detail of how this extra freight capacity will work in practice.
“However, we reiterate that securing a deal remains the best way to protect patients.”
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