Matt Hancock

Community pharmacists should support prime minister Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement if they wish to avoid the potential patient safety implications of a no deal Brexit, health secretary Matt Hancock has claimed.

In a Commons Q&A session on Tuesday December 27, Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper what steps Mr Hancock was taking “to ensure that community pharmacies are able to supply vital medical supplies post Brexit, particularly in the event of no deal.”

Ms Burnley MP spoke of the concerns expressed by the MHRA and Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry chief Mike Thompson that there was insufficient cold warehouse storage to stockpile sufficient amounts of medicines such as insulin should the flow of medicines into the UK be disrupted by a no deal Brexit. 

Mr Hancock responded: “Community pharmacies, like everybody else should support the prime minister’s deal, which will make sure that that eventuality does not occur.”

In the run up to the cabinet’s approving the draft Brexit plan, Mr Hancock reportedly told colleagues he could not guarantee a no deal scenario and the medicine supply issues that could ensue from this would not lead to patient fatalities.

The date of Parliament's 'meaningful vote' on the Brexit plan has been set for Tuesday December 11.

Pharmacies can do “much more” says Hancock

In the same Q&A session, Conservative MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole Michael Tomlinson asked what steps Mr Hancock was taking to support local pharmacies. Hancock responded: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in our health service, but we know they can do more and we are determined to see them do more to keep people healthy."

Mr Tomlinson MP said he was “grateful” for this “absolutely right” answer and went on to ask how the health secretary plans to support the Pharmacy First policy, “which should help to relieve pressure on our general practitioners”.

Mr Hancock said he agreed that pharmacies “can play an increasing role” in widening healthcare access and relieving GP pressures. He said that the Department is “piloting 111 directing people to pharmacies as well as to GPs” and advising the public to use pharmacies for minor ailments, but added that “there is much more we can do together on this”.

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