Brexit: What happens if the supply of treatments or devices is limited?

A leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals has provided advice in relation to concerns about access to drugs and medical devices, should the UK leave with ‘no deal’.

Ahead of the announcement of the new Prime Minister, Stephen Barclay MP, the Brexit secretary has expressed that maintaining the flow of medicines between the UK and EU will be a top priority in the case of a so-called no deal Brexit. It is not yet clear under what arrangements the UK will leave the EU. Although it is hoped that Brexit will not affect the provision of healthcare in the UK, The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has stressed how important it is that doctors are aware of what steps to take should patients face delays in treatment or limited access to drugs and medical devices. 

In a clinical scenario in which the access to treatments or devices is limited or delayed, the organisation advises that doctors should take the following steps:

  • Explain the position fully to the patient
  • Explain the treatment and investigation options fully to the patient (including the risks, benefits and burdens of each) and seek the patient's consent as to which option they wish to pursue
  • Arrange any relevant follow-up that may be required
  • Make a comprehensive contemporaneous record of your discussions and rationale for the approach. Escalate your concerns in accordance with the GMC Good Medical Practice guidance.

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at MPS, said: “Doctors are understandably concerned about the potential for interruption to the supply chain of drugs and medical devices, which may then lead to delays in the provision of treatment as well as inferior treatment being given.

“If this situation were to occur, our advice is to fully explain the situation to the patient, as well as what treatment and investigations options are available – including risks and benefits- and seek the patient’s consent regarding the option they wish to pursue. Doctors may also wish to arrange any relevant follow-up that may be required, while recording all the discussions and rationale for the approach. 

“Clinicians should familiarise themselves with local and national guidance which may be issued on the subject from time to time as the situation evolves."