Emergency “trauma packs” flown into the UK during terrorist attacks are being stockpiled on British soil by the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson over concerns of a risk to life from border delays in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The company said the move was being made due to the danger posed to the…
Emergency “trauma packs” flown into the UK during terrorist attacks are being stockpiled on British soil by the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson over concerns of a risk to life from border delays in the event of a no-dealBrexit.
The company said the move was being made due to the danger posed to the “routine and rapid” provision of the vital emergency equipment it provides to theNHSin times of emergency from a distribution plant in Belgium.
Hospitals do not generally keep large stocks of such emergency packs due to the risk of the devices or medicines contained within them running past their product shelf life.
The development highlights the dependence of the UK on frictionless movement of goods across the border. On Thursday, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, admitted to the dangers posed by Brexit.
“What we are doing is reviewing the tens of thousands of individual medicines, medical devices other products that the health service uses making sure that the manufacturers of those products have got extra buffer stockpiles”, Stevens said. “We do obviously have a reliance on the way the transport infrastructure works in order to continue uninterrupted supply.”
Stevens added that it was “in nobody’s interest” in westernEuropeto stand in the way of the flow of medical equipment. “Getting those transport logistics right is absolutely crucial for the continuous flow of medical supplies, that is a statement of the obvious”, he said.
At the time of the 2017 bombing of the Manchester arena, in which 23 people died, the high number of casualties of both adults and children required Johnson & Johnson to swiftly fly-in additional packs from Belgium containing plates, wires, cables, nails and screws for the stabilising of joints.
“This is routine and the rapid deployment of trauma packs to the UK by the European Distribution Centre meant patient safety was never compromised”, a spokesman for Johnson & Johnson said.
The company, which is not the only provider of trauma packs, said that while there were “factors outside our control” it had been “preparing for no deal for well over a year” given the risks to the flow of medical supplies.
“Our priority throughout has been to patients, consumers, healthcare providers and our employees”, the spokesman said. “We are doing everything we can to prepare for all potential Brexit scenarios – including increasing our level of stockholding, increasing warehouse capacity, reviewing and where necessary changing transport/distribution routes”, the spokesman said.
Catherine Bearder, the Liberal Democrat MEP, said the government should formally rule out a no-deal Brexit.
She said: “Vital trauma packs can be sent to hospitals from the EU within hours. Customs checks will delay the packs getting to patients in emergency situations – it’s terrifying. The prime minister must take no deal off the table now.”
In 2017, the the cross-party home affairs select committee of MPs warned that post-Brexit customs checks could lead to five-hour delays at borders which could prove “critical in life and death situations where critically injured patients need care and treatment as soon as possible”.
“Accident and emergency trauma packs (which are full of equipment and medicines) are flown in from the EU to the UK within hours from the order being placed to the operating room (OR) in a hospital”, the committee’s report said.
“This short time frame is particularly necessary during unexpected large-scale emergencies, such as terrorist attacks, when a large number of people are suddenly seriously injured”, the report added.
“Hospitals do not always stockpile these packs on a large enough scale to deal with these extreme emergencies because the medicines and devices included in them would risk running past their product shelf life and many packs would be wasted.”