£3m plan to transport medicines after no-deal Brexit

Author: Mark Gould

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The Department of Health and Social Care has revealed that it plans to spend £3m to transport medications from Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It wants to hire an "express freight service" to transport medicines, blood and transplant tissue.

At the weekend, it emerged that the Department for Transport was asking logistics companies to bid to provide extra freight capacity to be used in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The plan is to set up "an express freight contingency arrangement to support continuity of supply of medicines and medical products," cabinet office minister David Lidington told Parliament.

"This will be an urgent contingency measure for products requiring urgent delivery, within a 24-48 hour timeframe, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal."

Together with stockpiling and helping companies with paperwork at the border, the department hopes this will allow patients to receive the medicines they need, especially rarer ones with short shelf-lives, which may require specialist transport conditions such as refrigeration.

"Government will only pay for capacity as and when it is needed and used," Mr Lidington insisted.

It is understood that while larger pharmaceutical companies would have their own plans, smaller ones were likely to need help.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman confirmed that the contract was new, but said that the speed of the contract was "within the usual guidelines".

The government's current plan is to leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a trade deal and experts have raised concerns that the deadline of 1 September set for the deal is a "tight" timeframe. Gus Tugendhat, founder of Tussell, a data provider on UK government contracts, which uncovered the latest move said timelines were "still tight".

Andrew Dean, director of public law at Clifford Chance, a former government adviser and procurement law expert said there was sufficient time to run a compliant and robust procurement process, but it would be tricky, given the relatively short timeframe.

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