Stockpiling medicines ahead of Brexit?

With mixed messages coming from Parliament, and headlines such as “No-deal Brexit fears over medicine supplies…” (Matthews-King, 2019) and “A no-deal Brexit will starve diabetics of insulin…” (Moore, 2019); a busy home manager, will find it hard to devote the time needed to exclude the scaremongering from what is authentic advice. Particularly in smaller chain homes that do not have the protective umbrella of a corporation with dedicated ancillary professionals disseminating the relevant information in an easy, bite-sized “to do” list. So, with a looming deadline of 31 October, where do care homes stand and what do they need to do?

One of the widely reported risk factors is the potential of reduced traffic flow between the Ports of Calais and Dover or Folkestone, as it is confirmed that the majority of medicines and clinical supplies to the UK come from or via the EU. Dover is the main access route for trade with the UK and the rest of the EU, and currently, EU vehicles are waved through and on the road without delay. Conversely, non-EU lorries are subject to longer delays by customs procedures (Morris, 2019).

Of course, the UK are able to minimise checks at UK ports to prevent delays, but this will not necessarily be the case for UK deliveries arriving at EU ports – and as with all major transport systems, delays along the line can have a knock-on effect. There is also the view that delays may result in medication with a short shelf-life or requiring certain storage conditions perishing and rendered unusable.

In response, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 2019, reports that has secured additional freight capacity away from Dover and Folkestone and is utilising space on aeroplanes for products with a short shelf-life.

Regarding stockpiling, Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, firstly appeared to be suggesting that a 6-week stock pile of medication and blood products would be necessary to contingency for a no-deal scenario, but later clarified that this advice was not for local services, only pharmaceutical companies (Griffiths, 2018). He has also provided reassurances that in the case of insulin, two major providers have stockpiled at least double that amount. A stark warning follows, that stockpiling at local level could cause the reported shortages.

An open letter from Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care, goes some way to reassuring adult social care providers that contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit are well under way (CQC, 2019). Ms Dinenage confirms that providers of care services do not need to stockpile products but does concede that local contingency planning should include arrangements for longer lead times on products supplied from the EU and putting arrangements in place for deliveries outside of normal goods receipting hours.

The message is clear, there is no need to stockpile at local level, and the supply of medicines and medical products should be uninterrupted following a no-deal Brexit as long as the advice is followed.

For the latest EU Exit planning guidance for Adult Social Care Providers please follow this link:

Guest blogger Vickie Wylde RGN,
former care home manager





Care Quality Commission (CQC). (2019) EU Exit planning update: Letter to adult social care providers from Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care.

Department of Health and Social Care. (2019) Update on medicines and medical products supply as we exit the EU. London, UK: DHSC.

Griffiths M. (2018) Brexit raises the risk of dangerous delays in the supply of medicines Nursing Standard Online.

Matthews-King A. (2019) No-deal Brexit fears over medicine supplies prompt Dutch scramble for 50 ‘critical’ UK supplied drugs.  Independent Online, 8 February 2019. [Accessed 7 March 2019]

Moore J. (2019) A no-deal Brexit will starve diabetics of insulin – this despicable government really is lower than vermin. Independent Online, 14 February 2019. [Accessed 7th March 2019].

Morris C. (2019) Brexit: Could Channel Ports cope with no deal? BBC News Online, 4 January 2019.