UK plans £3m no-deal medicine transport

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The Department of Health and Social Care plans to spend £3m on no-deal Brexit measures to transport medication.

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

But experts have warned that the deadline of 1 September set for the deal is a “tight” timeframe.

The government’s current plan is to leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a trade deal.

It has smartened up its act on procurement after running up a bill of £80m trying to arrange ferry contracts in the event of a no-deal exit.

Seaborne Freight had been awarded a £13.8m deal last year, which the BBC found had never run a ferry service.

Gus Tugendhat, founder of Tussell, a data provider on UK government contracts, which uncovered the latest move said timelines were “still tight”.

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Image caption Some medicines have short shelf lives and may require refrigeration

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.

Last 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.

‘Within the guidelines’

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”.

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