Brexit No Deal Q&A – What should people with diabetes do?

UPDATE: 12/04/2019

If you’re living with or affected by diabetes, you’ll no doubt have been closely following reports in the news about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on supplies of medicines, particularly insulin. Also, see below for what no deal Brexit means for European Health Insurance Cards.
We want to use this blog to give you the most up-to-date information on the Government’s plans. Since we first published it before Christmas there have been a lot of updates because we’ve been very busy trying to get clarity and commitment from the UK Government. This version brings everything together in a clearer way.

Why is there an issue?

The Government has said that the ports such as Dover and Folkestone would have greatly reduced capacity for at least six months if there is a no-deal Brexit because it would lead to new checks on goods, and as a result slow traffic. This would affect the supply of medicines and technology that come through these ports.

What has Diabetes UK done?

Following a series of letters and public statements, along with JDRF, we had a meeting with senior officials with expertise in logistics and supplies of medicines and consumables at the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

This was a very encouraging discussion. Alongside the ministerial statement published at the end of February, and assurances from the insulin manufacturers, we feel more reassured about plans (FAQ from NHS England available here).

We have also said that the Government and Secretary of State for Health should continue to ensure that information about progress is made available and we are continuing to work with them to ensure this happens.

What is the Government’s plan?

The Government has said that making sure people have access to the medicines they need will be a priority for the capacity that is available to import goods. They are working to increase that capacity through alternative routes and will use air freight as an alternative. They will also increase storage capacity before we leave the EU so that there are extra stocks in the country. On top of this they are increasing the capacity to deal with any problems that might arise.

Essentially, they are working to ensure that, firstly there is enough capacity to bring in what we need. Secondly, if there are any problems with that there will be extra stocks here. Thirdly, if there are any remaining problems, the NHS’s ability to manage them is being beefed up based on their existing systems for managing disruption.

It is clear that a great deal of time and money in the NHS is being used to manage the issues created by a no deal Brexit.

Following a series of votes in parliament during March and April the Government has agreed with the EU a further extension of the Article 50 period to 31 October 2019.  If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both sides before that date the UK will leave the EU earlier but in that case it would leave with a deal.

Therefore, they are continuing to plan for a no deal scenario on 12 April, and are also asking every part of the health and social care system to continue their planning to ensure the continuation of the supply of medical products to the whole of the UK in the event of a no deal EU Exit. The DHSC restated that they 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.

What are the insulin companies doing?

Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, two of the three main manufacturers of insulin, have said they will have at least 16 weeks of stocks in the UK so they will have time to resolve any problems that could occur at the border. They are also working on alternative routes into the country – either by ferry or in the air. Lilly have told us they have similar plans.

What’s happening in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

While the supply of medicines is a reserved matter, our teams in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been working to get greater clarity on the distribution of medicines, and the storage and local distribution of insulin.

Diabetes Scotland

Diabetes Scotland organised a coalition of charities, including Marie Curie Scotland, MS Society Scotland and Epilepsy Scotland to ask the Cabinet Secretary, Jeanne Freeman MSP to explain what action Scottish Government is taking in preparation for a no deal Brexit.

In response, the Cabinet Secretary detailed the responsibility of the UK Government and the establishment of the “NHS Scotland Medicines Shortages Response Group” led by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, to feed into the UK-wide Medicines Shortages Response Group.

Following a Diabetes Scotland meeting with senior Scottish Government officials to discuss the recently published Scottish Government update on medicine supplies in the event of a no deal Brexit, we feel reassured there are robust systems and plans in place.  The Scottish Government is working closely with all the other UK administrations and pharmaceutical organisations to ensure that people receive the medicines and medical supplies they need if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.  The Scottish Government has committed to making information about progress readily available to the public and we will keep working with them to make sure this happens.

Diabetes UK Cymru

Diabetes UK Cymru has been working with the Welsh NHS Policy Confederation on the problems those with diabetes, and specifically those who are insulin dependent would face as a result of a no-deal Brexit, as well as the implications of Brexit on NHS Wales/GIG Cymru more generally.

We’ve raised concerns about potential post-Brexit scenarios with the ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) representative in Wales and the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Social Care and Sport. We’ve made it incredibly clear that providing information to insulin users about the provisions being put in place in must be a priority, and will continue to work with NHS Wales, the ABPI and the Welsh Government to ensure this happens.

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has published a dedicated page on its website dedicated to Brexit. This page includes guidance from the Department, as well as links to letters issued by the Department to GPs, Pharmacists, Opthalmologists and other healthcare professionals.

European Health Insurance Cards

The Government has also said that access to healthcare in EU countries will change if there is a no deal Brexit, as European Health Insurance Cards may not be valid. Anyone travelling to the EU, EEA or Switzerland after April 19th should get health insurance to cover this. UK nationals who live in EU countries will also have new arrangements.

The advice varies depending on the country and is available on the NHS website.

What should people with diabetes do?

People should continue to get prescriptions and use their medicines in the normal way.
If you’re travelling to any country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland after 19th April, it’s vital you get health insurance that covers your needs.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss any concerns you with has please call us on 0345 123 2399. Our lines are open 9am-6pm Monday to Friday. We’ve also set up a new contact form for you to get in touch about any concerns you have about insulin or medicines supply and Brexit.

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