NHS trusts could “quickly run out of vital medicine” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the chief executive of a leading hospital group has warned.
Dr David Rosser of University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) said that, despite NHS stockpiling, shortages would likely occur due to “unprecedented” distribution challenges.
Dr Rosser made the warning in a paper presented to the UHB board last week.
The Department of Health said planning for a no-deal Brexit was “ongoing”.
It added: “We are working closely with the NHS, industry and the supply chain to make detailed plans to ensure continued access to healthcare, medical devices and clinical supplies in the event of no deal.”
In his memo to the UHB board, Dr Rosser said: “In terms of the potential for major operational impact and severe and widespread risks to public safety, by far the greatest concern is the availability of medicines, devices and clinical supplies.”
He added that a Department for Health report into which medicines were likely to face shortages had “not been made available” to NHS trusts but that “it is assumed that a significant proportion of the medicines and consumables we use at UHB on a daily basis may be at risk”.
These shortages, Dr Rosser said, would lead to most non-urgent operations being postponed.
On Tuesday, MPs backed an amendment in Parliament rejecting a no-deal Brexit, but the vote was not binding – meaning the date for exit remains 29 March.
MPs also backed seeking “alternative arrangements” to replace the Irish backstop in Theresa May’s Brexit plan – but the EU has said it will not change the legal text agreed with the UK PM.
Dr Rosser also warned “a fractious no-deal scenario” could have a “major impact” on EU staff working in the NHS.
“We employ around 1,200 EU staff, of whom 262 are doctors, 375 are nurses or midwives, 320 are scientific or other clinical staff, and the balance are in support services,” he said.
“All of these people are vital and highly valued colleagues.”