NHS trusts ‘struggling to source expanding list of drugs’ amid Brexit confusion

NHS trusts are struggling to get hold of an expanding list of drugs amid uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU, health leaders have warned.

The number of “hard-to-obtain” medicines is “escalating exponentially on a daily basis”, according to one trust chief executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Some hospitals in England are facing difficulties getting around 160 drugs per day, which is more than five times what they would normally expect, they said.

The NHS has been told not to stockpile medicines, as Government plans are in place to ensure supplies are continued in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“While we are told by the centre that drugs and supplies will continue to be available, I think locally we are all incredibly worried about whether that will actually be the case or not,” the trust chief executive said.

“We are already starting to see now the number of hard-to-obtain drugs is escalating exponentially on a daily basis.”

They added: “On an average day, we would probably have 30 drugs on our list that are hard to get.

“We are now getting into the 160s on a daily basis, and I can’t believe for one minute that that is not a direct link with what is going on in terms of Brexit negotiations.”

The trust executive said this was “potentially” the result of central stockpiling.

It is still not clear whether the UK will leave the EU on March 29 (Stefan Rousseau/ PA)
It is still not clear whether the UK will leave the EU on March 29 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Two other NHS leaders, who also did not wish to be named, warned they are dealing with similar situations.

Trusts have also complained of a lack of clear instruction from central government about how the health service should be preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

One NHS trust chief executive said guidance had been “sketchy”, adding: “It’s been like navigating your way through treacle, if I’m honest.”

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said there is an “information vacuum” at a local level.

“Trusts are currently doing all they can to minimise any potential disruption, but the political sensitivity around it has massively hampered the ability of the local trusts’ regional structures and the departments of state to actually plan properly around this,” Ms Cordery said.

Concerns were raised about risk planning by the healthcare sector last summer, but there has not been “enough focus on it until the last few months”, she added.

“Even really last summer was probably too late, when we think about the scale, it should have been the year before,” she said.

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