One of the many lies told by the Leave campaign was that the money saved from leaving the EU would result in £350m for the NHS per week. This lie contributed towards citizens voting to exit the European Union back in 2016. The campaign built itself on the promise to prioritise healthcare within the UK, yet as the chances of a no-deal Brexit rises and concern grows over the prolonged disruption at the borders, including queues up to seventeen miles long at the port of Dover, we are now witnessing panic among both citizens and government ministers with regards to the supply of medicine. Part of the government’s contingency plans is the stockpiling of medicines. Health secretary Matt Hancock has asked drug companies to ensure they have six weeks’ worth of additional supplies of medicines to prevent the chaos the would ensue from a very possible no-deal Brexit. However, now due to a lack of trust within the current government and their handling of Brexit, many are taking matters into their own hands and stockpiling their own medications such as insulin amid fear of shortages in this political uncertainty.
Whilst a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that patients do not need to stockpile, insisting that the supply of medicines will be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal, it can’t be ignored that about seventy per cent of the drugs we need in this country is imported and therefore indefinitely affected by Brexit. This includes products such as furosemide, used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems; fluoxetine, which treats depression, and the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen. Any shortages in these medications will put a strain on the NHS and undoubtedly go on to affect a significant number of people. Some of these drugs have already faced shortages in the past due to issues around manufacturing, transportation, and demand, though Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) points out that “where you have those supply shortages, concerns around a no-deal Brexit are likely to exacerbate those ongoing issues”.
Many voted to leave the EU on the basis of a stronger healthcare system: the lack of transparency on the consequences of crashing out of the EU, especially for those taking such medications, is creating a dilemma. Is this the uncertainty people voted for? The irony of Brexit is that the £350m membership fee of the EU was promised to the NHS by the right-wing Leave camp, yet no one was informed about how much Brexit was going to cost the NHS. With £4 billion in place for a no-deal Brexit and increases in tariffs resulting in the increased prices of medicine on top of concern over its shortages, is the NHS really benefiting the way the Leave campaign insisted it would? Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association, stated that “it is impossible to say whether the government’s contingency planning will prove adequate … the uncertainty over Brexit is leaving patients who rely on medicine for their day-to-day wellbeing on the horns of a dreadful dilemma.”
According to the Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales, Suzanne Scott-Thomas, this stockpiling will deplete the main supply of medicines and will only further increase prices. However, with many of us reliant on medications, such as the six