Medicines

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been working closely with the NHS, pharmaceutical companies, medical device supply companies and others in supply chains to make sure medicines and medical products continue to be available for the NHS if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

  • DHSC has published EU Exit Operational Readiness Guidance for the health system to help with preparations.
  • Further detail on the work to ensure continuity of medicines supply has been outlined in a letter from Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, to GPs, and pharmacists – sent on 18 January 2019.
  • DHSC has published further guidance on the availability of medicines
  • Further detail on the work to ensure continuity of supply for medical devices and clinical consumable has been outlined in a letter from Keith Willett, Strategic Commander for EU Exit, to trusts and Heads of Procurement – sent on 11 February 2019.

Over two and a half million prescription items are dispensed in primary care alone in England every day, and the NHS has existing ways of making sure that patients get the medicines that they need even under difficult circumstances.

These existing plans have been further developed and are now being implemented to ensure the most effective regulations, systems and processes are in place.

Occasionally the NHS may experience temporary shortages of specific medicines. If this happens, and depending on the nature of the circumstances, doctors and other prescribers will be guided how best to respond to the situation. Sometimes this may mean prescribing the best alternative to the patient’s medicine, as would happen normally. This will ensure patient treatment continues as normal.

It is important that patients only order their repeat prescriptions as normal, and keep taking their medicines as normal.

GPs and their teams must:

  • Continue prescribing medicines to patients as normal. Prescribing extra medicine or authorising early repeat prescription requests will significantly increase the risk of triggering shortages elsewhere
  • Ensure that they are familiar with the latest information on medicines supply
  • Inform patients that there are national plans in place to ensure continuity of supply of medicines

To ensure that we manage supply effectively across the NHS, any incidences involving the over-ordering of medicines, or pharmacies stocking excessive quantities of medicines, will be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief Pharmacist or Contractor directly. This principle of not over stocking or over ordering medicines applies to dispensing doctors in the same way.

Information has been published on NHS.uk for patients should they have any queries. Supporting Q&As may also be helpful in any discussion with patients about their medicines and medical products.

If you have any queries, please contact your organisation’s EU Exit Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) who can then raise with NHS England’s regional EU Exit points of contact.