UK Government working on securing supply chains

THE UK Government is working with the Crown Dependencies on securing supply chains, including in relation to vaccines, amid potential Brexit-related disruption.

Union flags fly in Parliament Square (28693567)
Union flags fly in Parliament Square (28693567)

Under questioning by MPs, a number of UK health ministers have moved to reassure people about the security of supply chains after the so-called Brexit ‘transition period’ ends on 31 December 2020. It covered the period between the UK exiting the European Union earlier this year and any future agreement on the relationship between the two sides.

The UK Department of Health & Social Care’s planning covers the Crown Dependencies and includes guidance that medical suppliers stockpile six weeks of supplies on UK soil.

‘The department, in consultation with the devolved administrations and Crown Dependencies, are working with trade bodies, suppliers, and the health and care system to make detailed plans to help ensure continued supply of medicines and medical products to the whole of the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period,’ said Edward Argar, minister of state at the Department for Health & Social Care.

‘As set out in a letter from the department to industry of 3 August, we are implementing a multi-layered approach, that involves asking suppliers to get trader ready, re-route their supply chains away from any potential disruption and stockpiling to a target level of six weeks on UK soil where this is possible.’

The letter was sent by his department’s chief commercial officer Steve Oldfield to medicines and medical products suppliers. It sets out planning and preparations in relation to the end of the Brexit transition period – including the potential for border disruption and need to secure medical supplies, including vaccines.

Mr Oldfield noted that 2020 had ‘already been a challenging year due to the global impact of Covid-19 and we know that many of your supply chains remain under severe strain’.

He added: ‘The ongoing pandemic, gradual resumption of NHS activity, and seasonal pressures mean we must prepare thoroughly for the end of the TP [transition period]. It’s imperative that we maintain our excellent working relationships and lines of communication: to this end, I am writing to you to indicate how we propose we should work together to deliver our shared goal of continuity of safe patient care.’

The staged implementation of border controls by the UK Government would help to reduce potential disruption, said Mr Oldfield. But traders still needed to be ready for controls implemented by EU member states on 1 January 2021.

‘It is anticipated that there could be border disruption if significant volumes of freight arrive at the border without completing the correct formalities. Government must plan for all scenarios, including reduced traffic flow at the short straits in a reasonable worst case scenario (ie between Calais/Dunkirk/Coquelles and Dover/Folkestone).

‘Our shared focus should be on mitigating any potential disruption to supply into the UK across all categories of medical supplies, including, but not limited to: medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables, clinical trials supplies, products of human origin (blood and transplant items), vaccines and countermeasures, non-clinical goods and services (NCGS) in support of health and social care providers.’

Mr Oldfield continued: ‘Our contingency planning covers all four nations of the UK as well as the Crown Dependencies. You will recall that during the past two years, we have developed robust joint plans to mitigate any such possible disruption based on a “multi-layered approach”, and in principle propose to do the same for the end of the TP.

‘We’re asking suppliers to put in place flexible mitigation and readiness plans in preparation for new border and customs procedures.’

In Guernsey, the authorities have said they are preparing for all possible outcomes of UK-EU negotiations.

‘Guernsey, and the wider Bailiwick, continues to prepare for all possible outcomes of the negotiations between the UK and EU in advance of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020,’ said a spokesperson for P&R earlier this month.

  • ‘SIGNIFICANT’ preparations in relation to Brexit were required through 2019, States Works has said.

In its latest annual report, States Works general manager Paul Lickley said: ‘The ongoing Brexit situation required significant preparations throughout 2019. This included ensuring adequate stocks of critical spares for plant and equipment and other essential stock that might be subject to delivery delays in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This planning will minimise the potential operational impacts.’

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