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27 September 2019
Jeane Freeman tells Matt Hancock no-deal Brexit medicine plans ‘not normal, or sensible’

Image credit: Scottish Government

Jeane Freeman tells Matt Hancock no-deal Brexit medicine plans ‘not normal, or sensible’

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman says she has written to the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and others in his department “on at least five separate occasions” about concerns over no-deal Brexit medical supply, and "only some of those letters had been replied to".

In a recent letter to Matt Hancock, Freeman criticised his current approach as “not normal, or sensible”.

“Officials in your department are working flat out to maintain contact with scores of different pharmaceutical companies and keeping under review a range of contingency plans to deal with disruption in the supply of particular medicines,” she wrote.

"This is not normal, or sensible. Normal and sensible is a European-wide system of medicine licensing that allows patients and health systems across many countries to have confidence in the safety and efficacy of new medicines, enables patients in this country to be among the first to have access to innovative new medicines and allows companies in our country to find many more markets for the products that they have invested so much time and money in.”

She said the Scottish Government would fulfil its obligations to the people of Scotland, including EU citizens, and make “as many preparations as we can for a sudden no deal UK exit from the EU”, but: “will not indulge any suggestion that the present circumstances allow the health and social care system to continue as normal.”

“UK Government ministers continue to make choices that knowingly take risks with the health and care of people across the UK, including those who find themselves ill and vulnerable.”

A National Audit Office (NAO) report released on Friday found there was “a risk to supplies for health and social care if the UK leaves the EU without a deal”.

Responding to the report, Freeman said: “We’ve repeatedly warned the UK Government about the potential dangers to medicines supply from a no-deal Brexit. Today’s report from the National Audit Office makes clear that this danger is real.”

She rebuffed comments from Hancock last month, that medicines would continue “exactly as normal through a no-deal Brexit”.

“Today’s NAO report makes clear that claim was simply not true,” Freeman said.

In releasing her letter to Hancock, Freeman said she wanted to express “that the current situation is totally unacceptable”.

“It is staggering that work on this scale to secure supplies of medicines and other medical resources should even need to be undertaken – that is entirely the result of the UK Government’s reckless approach to Brexit,” she said.

“The Scottish Government is working hard to ensure we are as prepared as possible for all scenarios we might face. Sadly, the responsibility for a substantial plan sits with the UK Government.”

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