The Government has set aside £25million to pay for an “express freight service” to deal with potential medicine shortages after Brexit .
Critics of an increasingly likely no-deal exit say that the UK crashing out of EU could see drug shortages and spiraling costs for the NHS.
But the contract will protect drug supplies – regardless of whether this takes place with or without a deal, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
It will allow small parcels of medicines and products to be delivered within 24 hours, with the potential for larger quantities to be moved within 2-4 days.
The Government has issued an invitation to tender for potential providers wanting to bid for the contract, which will run for at least 12 months.
Health Minister Chris Skidmore said: “I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared.
“That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans.
“This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.”
The Government has been urging pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of essential medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Mark Dayan, policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust, said: “These drastic plans to get urgent medical supplies into the UK for a year after a no-deal Brexit show the scale of disruption the Government is preparing for.
“In the circumstances, this new service is a good idea.
“But the delays and extra paperwork that Brexit without an agreement will cause will still be there when the plane lands or the train rolls in.
“There will be complicated new processes for customs and gaining permission to use these services.
“Companies and suppliers will have to reroute all their supply lines overnight.
“Any teething problems that result will have a sharp impact on care as vital supplies that can’t last more than a few days become useless.”