Express service to ‘ensure’ Brexit urgent medicines supply

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was “strengthening” preparations with a £25m contract for an “express freight” service to deliver drugs and medical products into the country.

“I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken”

Chris Skidmore

The service is intended to deliver small parcels of medicines or medical products on a 24-hour basis, with additional provision to move larger pallet quantities on a two to four day basis.

The service, which follows concerns about potential disruption to disruption to medical supply chains, will be available to the whole of the UK, the department said in a statement issued today.

While the majority of goods will be standard medicines and medical products, the express freight service should also deliver temperature-controlled products if needed, said the department.

The procurement exercise forms part of the government’s moves to “support continuity of supply” in the face of continued uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the European Union, due on 31 October.

The contract will run for 12 months, with a possible further 12-month extension. Potential bidders have until 21 August to submit proposals, with the winners expected to be announced in September.

“The service will provide an additional level of contingency as part of necessary preparations to leave the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances,” the government stated.

It added that the new service would support other existing moves announced earlier this year, including building “buffer stocks”, procuring extra warehouse capacity and “strengthening” the processes to deal with shortages.

It also said it was “changing or clarifying regulatory requirements” so that companies could continue to sell their products in the UK if the country crashed out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Health minister Chris Skidmore said he wanted to “ensure” that all “appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared” for Brexit.

“That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans,” he said.

“This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.”