28 August 2018

A no deal Brexit could hamper the routine exchange of blood products with European countries, it has been revealed.

There may be problems in importing the 6.5% of plasma units imported from the EU annually and used in the UK, according to government technical guidance published yesterday.

The UK exports fewer than ten units a year to other countries of rare frozen red blood cells.

According to the guidance, the standards for blood products would remain the same in the UK and would initially be consistent with EU standards. The UK might then update standards to respond to emerging threats and other developments.

But further testing might be needed to confirm this, the guidance states, and importers are advised to consult the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The statement says: “We are engaging with blood establishments, the MHRA and devolved administrations to ensure that there is day one operability for blood safety and quality.”

Hospitals and practices should not stockpile medicines for a “no deal” Brexit – as this is to be done by businesses, the government said.

Similarly, doctors should not give patients extended prescriptions – and should discourage patients from hoarding medicines also, health secretary Matt Hancock said.

In a series of measures as part of Government announcement of plans for a “no deal”, Mr Hancock ordered pharmaceutical companies to increase their stocks by at least six weeks.

They should also put in place plans to bring in by air products with a short shelf life, he said.

Mr Hancock said: “The government has made significant progress in negotiations with the EU and remains confident we will leave with a good deal for both sides, that supports existing and future healthcare collaboration.

“However, as a responsible government, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that we leave the EU without any deal in March 2019.

“Given the significant amount of work that has now been done, I am confident this gives a clear basis for the health and care sector and the life sciences industry to plan so that patients can continue to receive high-quality care unhindered.”

Dr Bob Goddard, president-elect of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “We will look at the published guidance in detail in order to advise our members, who will be on the frontline come March next year and patients will be expecting them to provide reassurance.

“They will need to in turn have confidence in the Government’s ability to ensure the continued supply of medicines and medication devices.”

Source: Department of Health

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