Amidst continued uncertainty surrounding the exact terms of UK’s exit from the European Union on 29 March this year, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has increased its efforts to reduce disruption of medical supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Plans involve a number of measures, including increasing buffer stocks and stockpiling medicines, medical devices, blood, tissues and transplants, vaccines and supplies for clinical trials.

The DHSC is aiming to have six weeks of stock of approximately 7,000 medicines that arrive through the EU or EEA, with a similar situation for vaccines. It is currently only in emergencies that rare blood imported in to the UK but and NHS Blood and Transport has put contingency arrangements in place.

No-deal Brexit preparations also include buying extra warehouse space to hold the additional stockpiled stock, including temperature-controlled medications. In addition, the Department of Transport has signed contracts with two ferry companies for the next six months to move freight capacity away from Dover and Folkestone. The new routes will be Cherbourg to Poole, Le Havre to Portsmouth, Roscoff to Plymouth, Caen to Portsmouth and Vlaardingen to Immingham, Cuxhaven to Immingham and Vlaardingen to Felixstowe. Medical products will be prioritised on these routes.

“This multi-layered approach is essential: a combination of securing freight, buffer stocks, stockpiling and warehousing, and regulatory requirements, will be needed to help ensure the continuation of medicines and medical supplies in the event of a no deal exit,” said minister of state for health Stephen Hammond in a statement to the House of Commons. “Local stockpiling is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which could put patient care at risk.”

Despite the lack of confidence from the pharmaceutical industry, he remains optimistic about the strength of these plans. “While we never give guarantees, we are confident that, if everyone – including suppliers, freight companies, international partners and the health and care system – does what they need to do, the supply of medicines and medical products should be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal.”