NHS organisations in Lancashire have been warned not to do anything which undermines national preparations for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
A meeting of Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governors heard that there has been a “succession of communications” from the government and NHS agencies prohibiting practices like stockpiling drugs at a local level.
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“The Department of Health is very exercised by the notion that, by taking action which seems to safeguard their own bit [of the NHS], local systems might actually jeopardise the nationally-orchestrated safeguarding of supplies,” Matt Gaunt, the CCG’s EU exit representative said.
“As a result, NHS England [has said] that we should not undertake any form of action to stockpile drugs - and should be seeking assurances from [health service] providers that there are appropriate plans in place for things which they are responsible for, like the workforce”.
The government first warned against stockpiling back in December, when it outlined action which was being taken to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
Whitehall revealed that it had asked pharmaceutical companies which supply drugs to the UK via the EU to ensure that they had an extra six weeks’ worth of stock available at the time of the country’s departure from the bloc on 29th March. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, later claimed to have become the “largest buyer of fridges in the world” to store any supplies which had to be kept cool.
Plans were also unveiled to bring in short shelf life medicines by air and increase freight capacity for medical devices.
But hospitals, GPs and pharmacies were told not to over order for their own organisations, with a warning that any instances would be “investigated”.
CCG members heard that a Lancashire-wide meeting to discuss the potential impact of Brexit on the NHS in the county was postponed after the government cancelled the first planned parliamentary vote on its withdrawal agreement last month. Following the heavy defeat of the deal when it was finally put before MPs a fortnight ago, the meeting has not yet been rescheduled.
“It feels like the clock is running down on this, but the [CCG] governing body can be assured that we are taking all the action we can to safeguard the elements of the health system which we are accountable for,” Matt Gaunt said.
The government’s Brexit guidance for the NHS said that a national, regional and local support structure had been put in place and that issues would be resolved “as close to the frontline as possible”.
The Department for Health was contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, EU staff working for the the trust which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals were able to register under a pilot settlement scheme during December - guaranteeing their status and right to remain living and working in the UK after Brexit. A wider scheme for all other EU citizens opened earlier this month.