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Press Release

Minister Harris hosts Key Health Stakeholder Event – Brexit Preparedness Update

Published: 3 October 2019
From: Department of Health

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, today (Thursday) hosted this year’s fourth key Brexit stakeholder event at the Department of Health, briefing representatives from the health care professions on Brexit planning at government level.

The Minister for Health, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health’s Primary Care Division, the HPRA, and the HSE provided detailed updates on action taken to ensure continuity of supply of medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking at the event, Minister Harris said:

“Brexit is an issue of crucial importance to our citizens and the government and I are keenly aware of it."
“Throughout our preparations, Irish patients have been our highest priority, and ensuring their continued access to effective and appropriate treatments is the key focus of all our efforts."
“The continued support and assistance of healthcare professionals in relaying clear and accurate information to the public to avoid disruption to the supply of medicines is recognised and appreciated.”
“Medicine shortages are, unfortunately, a feature of both the global and the Irish market, regardless of Brexit. However, since 2018, there is a joint Government-Industry process in place to help address shortages as they arise. No medicine shortages currently affecting the Irish market are related to Brexit."
“Patients should continue to fill their prescriptions as normal. There is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, or for doctors to issue additional prescriptions, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients."
“Anyone who has concerns should speak to their doctor or pharmacist.”

The Irish and British Governments have committed to the shared objective of maintaining the CTA arrangements, under which Irish citizens and British citizens who live in, work in, or visit the other state have the right to access healthcare there. Provision has been made to ensure the arrangements necessary to maintain health service cooperation for the period after a no deal Brexit.

These include the maintenance of current arrangements for access to routine, planned and emergency health services for UK/Irish citizens and visitors in the other jurisdiction. It also includes health cooperation on access to specialist health services in the other jurisdiction including, for example, continued access to specialist paediatric cardiology services on an all island basis and access to specialist cancer services.

As part of the whole of government response to Brexit, including through our work with the EU, the Department of Health is working to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated set of preparations to ensure continuity of health services post-Brexit.

The Withdrawal of the UK from the EU (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 has a specific part on healthcare (Part 2 – Arrangements in relation to health Services). This Provides for legislative mechanisms to enable essential Common Travel Area healthcare arrangements to be maintained between Ireland and the UK which, if required, will allow the Minster for Health to make Orders and Regulations to enable necessary healthcare arrangements to be maintained between Ireland and the UK in a no-deal scenario.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor:

Significant work has been undertaken by the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Health Products Regulatory Authority, together with the pharmaceutical industry, to anticipate – in so far as is possible – potential vulnerabilities in medicine supplies after Brexit, and to devise contingencies in order to minimise any risks to continuity of supply.

Chapter 24 of the government’s Contingency Action Plan for Brexit details work underway in this area.

It is important to note that:

  • there are already additional stocks of medicines routinely built into the Irish medicine supply chain
  • Ireland’s medicines supply model is different to that which operates in the UK
  • the pharmaceutical industry and wholesalers have provided assurance that they are confident they will have sufficient stocks to bridge any initial issues at ports, should they occur
  • there is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, or for doctors to issue additional prescriptions, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients

As an additional safeguard, consideration is being given to those categories of medicines which are considered most essential to public health. The HSE and HPRA are continuing to undertake a further criticality assessment exercise to seek additional assurances from stakeholders, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and healthcare professionals to verify contingency planning to date and, where necessary, identify clinically appropriate alternatives for those products most critical to public health with potential to be vulnerable to supply issues. If any potential issue is identified, it will be managed through the existing medicine shortages framework.

Work on this will continue up to, and in the months following, Brexit, including ongoing engagement with industry to adapt supply chains, where necessary, to minimise potential disruption ongoing monitoring to ensure that adequate stocks of medicines are routinely built into the Irish medicine supply chain.

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