Brexit – Mitigation for stock shortages which could arise in the first quarter of 2019

 In Pharmacy Information, Simplifying Product Supply

The Department of Health & Social Care has provided the following official guidance regarding the management of possible medicines shortages resulting from the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit).

‘UK health and adult social care providers – including hospitals, nursing homes, care homes, GPs and community pharmacies – should not stockpile additional medicines beyond their business as usual stock levels. There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions. Local stockpiling by UK health and adult social care providers is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which would put patient care at risk. Any incidences involving the over-ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly. The Department and NHS England and Improvement are developing arrangements to allow local and regional monitoring of stock levels of medicines. NHS organisations should continue to report shortage issues through existing communication channels.’

A no-deal Brexit could pose additional problems for the medicine supply chain, but manufacturers have made contingency preparations. Stockpiling will potentially cause greater stock problems than Brexit itself, so this should be avoided.

Ashtons utilises many medication suppliers, and we will be working hard to maintain continuity of our medicine stocks. The pharmaceutical industry has been making contingency plans for more than a year, to cope with possible supply issues, so this should provide mitigation.

However, we recommend that our customers don’t leave ordering until they are literally running out, just in case there is a delay in obtaining supplies. There is a difference between stockpiling and keeping sensible stock levels. So orders should be placed to allow at least two – three weeks’ supply, rather than a few days.

All healthcare organisations will need to alert the relevant frontline staff, ensuring that the stock cupboards have sufficient stocks and staff are not ordering at the last moment before their medication runs out. This is the current strategy that we recommend over the Christmas and Bank Holiday periods and this works very well.

The Ashtons clinical pharmacists will also provide advice and support regarding stock management to the ward staff during their visits.

There is no certainty about the effects of Brexit, and so we will continue to monitor what could be the likely outcomes, and we will endeavour to work with our customers to prevent stock shortages.

For further advice or information about medication supply issues, please contact us or call our Customer Services Team on 0345 222 3550 or email

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