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Sunday, September 01, 2019

The medicines that will run out first

The Sunday Times reports that senior doctors have warned the NHS to brace itself for the “biggest threat it has ever faced” if the UK crashes out of the EU on October 31. Their warning has been made in light of a leaked internal document which reveals the risks to patients from expected drug shortages:

Confidential files from NHS England, seen by The Sunday Times, list medicines that have been impossible to stockpile, including for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and the chronic pain condition trigeminal neuralgia.

The documents, which show the drugs categorised according to the expected impact

of shortages, also set out suggested measures for combating supply problems including flying the drugs in. Last month the leak of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer document laid bare the gaps in its planning for a no-deal Brexit. The Yellowhammer file, which was dated early August, stated that supply chains for medicines were “particularly vulnerable” to border delays. About three-quarters of medicines enter the UK via the main Channel crossings.

A senior Whitehall source, who is familiar with an earlier version of the Yellowhammer document, said the government’s fears around the supply of drugs had grown since March 31, the original date for departing from the EU.

“I was quite startled that this appears still to be a serious concern,” the source said. “Back in March ministers were reasonably satisfied that medicines were going to be OK. It’s now looking like that confidence has diminished.”

These revelations sum up exactly why Parliament should not be prorogued for five weeks. If we are to crash out without a deal on 31 October then Ministers need to be questioned in detail as to what exactly they are doing to avert this crisis.

Effective scrutiny has a purpose. It is not just about questioning Ministers but about delivering good government. Boris Johnson's actions make that less likely.
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