People could die as a result of a no-deal Brexit, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England has said, in the starkest warning yet about the consequences of crashing out of the EU on October 31.
Professor Dame Sally Davies said it cannot be guaranteed that there will be no medical shortages if the UK fails to reach an agreement with Brussels by the end of the month.
Last week, NHS Wales unveiled a so-called “Brexit Warehouse” to store around 1,000 extra products including medical gloves, needles and dressings at a cost of about £5 million, PA Media reports.
Dame Sally told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: “The health service and everyone has worked very hard to prepare.
“But I say what I’ve said before – that we cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only in medicines but technology and gadgets and things.
“And there may be deaths, we can’t guarantee there won’t.”
Pressed whether lives are at risk, she replied firmly: “They are at risk.”
Her comments come just a couple of days after the government published a Brexit “no-deal readiness” report in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that he can “confidently” say the UK is prepared to leave the EU without a deal on October 31.
On the issue of health, the report said: “The UK will continue to play a world-leading role in health security, patient safety and medical advance after Brexit.
“Opportunities may include innovative regulation of novel advanced therapies and medicines, and a streamlined approach to clinical trial reporting and conduct.
“These strengths in health research will be further supported by fast-track visas for world-leading scientists.”
The report outlines plans to set up a dedicated support unit for suppliers of medical goods in the health sector, with the aim of helping to ensure that companies have the necessary customs paperwork in place for border arrangements ahead of a no-deal scenario.
It says suppliers of all medicines and medical products should ensure they are ready to comply with the new customs and border processes required to import and export goods between the UK and the EU.
The report also says adult social care providers should plan for longer lead times of up to five days for products imported from the EU, and be prepared to receive stock deliveries outside normal hours.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We fully understand the concerns some people have about the availability of medicines. We are doing everything we can to help ensure they can access the treatments they need after Brexit.
″The Government, industry and NHS have put in place robust preparations for Brexit, which consists of stockpiling, securing transport and warehouse capacity and working closely with businesses on their readiness for day one.”