The British Medical Association (BMA) has described a new government contingency planning document as ‘alarming’, amid concerns around a no-deal Brexit.
The document, known as ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ was released on the evening of September 11 and lays out plans for a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’.
Yellowhammer states that there may be “significant disruption” to trade flow, which could last up to six months, and advises that ‘unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said within a BMA press release “This alarming document reinforces the BMA’s stark warnings about the devastating impact a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have, and vindicates those doctors who have had the courage to speak out on the risks that crashing out of the EU without a deal poses to the NHS, patients and the wider health of the UK.
“Here we see in black and white the Government warning of disruption to vital medicine supplies, a higher risk of disease outbreaks due to veterinary medicine supply issues, and UK pensioners in the EU being unable to access healthcare from 1 November if there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.”
Dr Nagpaul also cautioned that these difficulties come at the beginning of winter, which is usually the most difficult time of year for the NHS.
Amid these concerns, however, some reassurances have been made. It has been reported that 16 weeks’ worth of insulin supplies have been stockpiled in preparation for transport disruptions.
The Yellowhammer document admits stockpiling cannot cover the potential six months of transport disruption but advises that the Department of Health and Social Care “is developing a multi-layered approach to mitigate those risks.”
The approach includes an express freight service to bring medicines and medical products into the UK within one to three days, if needed.
Niall Dickso, chief executive of the NHS Confederatio, said ‘Yellowhammer’ underlines the fact that there are serious risks with a no-deal Brexit, with much uncertainty for patients, NHS staff, and UK citizens living in EU countries.”
“We believe, however, that the public should be reassured that extensive preparations have been made for a no-deal outcome and that we’ve had assurances from government and industry that everything possible has been done to ensure the free flow of drugs and other supplies to the NHS.”