Contracts awarded to deliver urgent medicines into UK after Brexit

Pharmacist reaching for medicines in a hospital pharmacy

Contracts have been awarded to UPS, DFDS and Biocair for the Department of Health and Social Care’s express freight service. The new service will help to ensure that patients and care providers have access to medicines and medical products after Brexit.

The £25 million service was first announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in August.

It means that vital medicines and medical products can be transported from the location they are produced to the point they are needed within 24 to 48 hours, to meet any urgent needs that might arise.

The service provides access to specialised express logistics networks that can move the wide range of medicines, devices and products required for the delivery of safe, high-quality care for patients across the UK.

The NHS will have access to:

  • next-day delivery on small consignments, including temperature-controlled or hazardous products
  • 48-hour delivery for larger loads
  • specialist services, including hand-delivered courier services if needed

The 3 providers have extensive experience of operating logistics networks serving Europe and the UK using a mixture of air and road transport to support the express movement of products.

The express freight service will support existing plans already in place, including:

  • building buffer stocks of medicines and medical products

  • changing or clarifying regulatory requirements so that companies can continue to sell their products in the UK if we leave the EU without a deal

  • strengthening the process and resources used to deal with shortages

  • procurement of additional warehouse capacity

  • supporting companies to improve the readiness of their logistics and supply chains to meet the new customs and border requirements for both import and export

As an extra level of cover, the department has also increased its capacity to manage any potential disruption to supply that might arise by setting up a dedicated National Supply Disruption Response unit to support the health and social care sector.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

This dedicated delivery service will get urgent supplies and short shelf-life medicines, like radioisotopes for cancer treatments, rapidly into the country, including by plane where necessary.

It is just one element of our detailed and robust preparations for Brexit, which includes stockpiling and additional ferry capacity.

We now have detailed plans in place for every medicine – including those with short shelf-lives – to help ensure that the supply of medicines and medical products are uninterrupted through Brexit.

Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said:

Industry has been doing everything in its power to make sure people get the medicines they need. Whilst there are many things beyond their control, this is an important contingency plan that will help our members continue their preparations – alongside the stockpiles they have already built and alternative freight routes they have secured.

Peter Ellingworth, Chief Executive of the Association of British HealthTech Industries, said:

This announcement, along with the existing package of support for HealthTech companies, is testament to the hard and diligent work carried out by the department to ensure that our sector, and the patients we serve, are as well prepared as we can be to deal with the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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