Press Release

Minister Harris hosts Key Health Stakeholder Event – Brexit Preparedness Update

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD yesterday (Tuesday) hosted the third key Brexit stakeholder event at the Department of Health for representatives from the pharmaceutical and medtech industries, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish Pharmacy Union, the Hospital Pharmacists Association of Ireland and the Irish Medication Safety Network.

The Minister for Health, the Secretary General of the Department of Health, the HPRA, and the HSE provided detailed updates on Brexit planning at Government level. Industry and representative groups gave updates on their preparedness for Brexit, and any issues they are facing.

Speaking at the event, Minister Harris said “I know that a significant amount of work and investment has already been made by the medicines and medical device industry in preparing for Brexit and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that work and to thank you, and the members of your organisations, for the huge efforts that you have made to prepare for life after Brexit.

“As Minister for Health, my priorities in planning for Brexit are to ensure the protection of public health, continuity in the provision of health services and to avoid or mitigate changes that would have a negative impact for patients.

“Brexit means change, but throughout our preparations, Irish patients have been our highest priority, and ensuring their continued access to effective and appropriate treatments is the key focus of all our efforts.”

Secretary General Jim Breslin said “I want to emphasise for industry the the importance of making contact with Revenue and taking all necessary preparatory steps to make certain you are ready to trade after Brexit. Suppliers of medicines and medical devices should continue to review their supply chain for products that travel from or through the UK to ensure its effectiveness post – Brexit and communicate any issues to the HPRA or the HSE.

I would like to again assure you that the Government, the Department and its agencies are open to discuss any issues you may be facing and will provide any assistance we can to resolve difficulties arising for you because of Brexit.”

It was agreed that the positive engagement between the Department, agencies and industry would continue as Government prepares for Brexit.

The Irish and British Governments have committed to the shared objective of maintaining the CTA arrangements, under which Irish citizens and British citizens who live in, work in, or visit the other state have the right to access healthcare there. Provision has been made to ensure the arrangements necessary to maintain health service cooperation for the period after a no deal Brexit. These include the maintenance of current arrangements for access to routine, planned and emergency health services for UK/Irish citizens and visitors in the other jurisdiction. It also includes health cooperation on access to specialist health services in the other jurisdiction including, for example, continued access to specialist paediatric cardiology services on an all island basis and access to specialist cancer services.

As part of the whole of Government response to Brexit, including through our work with the EU, the Department of Health is working to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated set of preparations to ensure continuity of health services post-Brexit.

The Withdrawal of the UK from the EU (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 has a specific part on healthcare (Part 2 – Arrangements in relation to health Services). This Provides for legislative mechanisms to enable essential Common Travel Area healthcare arrangements to be maintained between Ireland and the UK which, if required, will allow the Minster for Health to make Orders and Regulations to enable necessary healthcare arrangements to be maintained between Ireland and the UK in a no-deal scenario.


Notes to the Editor

Significant work has been undertaken by the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Health Products Regulatory Authority, together with the pharmaceutical industry, to anticipate – in so far as is possible – potential vulnerabilities in medicine supplies after Brexit, and to devise contingencies in order to minimise any risks to continuity of supply. Chapter 24 of the Government’s Contingency Action Plan for Brexit (link below) details work underway in this area.

It is important to note that:
· There are already additional stocks of medicines routinely built into the Irish medicine supply chain.
· Ireland’s medicines supply model is different to that which operates in the UK.
· The pharmaceutical industry and wholesalers have provided assurance that they are confident they will have sufficient stocks to bridge any initial issues at ports, should they occur.
· There is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, or for doctors to issue additional prescriptions, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients.

As an additional safeguard, consideration is being given to those categories of medicines which are considered most essential to public health. The HSE and HPRA are continuing to undertake a further criticality assessment exercise to seek additional assurances from stakeholders, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and healthcare professionals to verify contingency planning to date and, where necessary, identify clinically appropriate alternatives for those products most critical to public health with potential to be vulnerable to supply issues. If any potential issue is identified, it will be managed through the existing medicine shortages framework. Work on this will continue up to, and in the months following, Brexit including:

· Ongoing engagement with industry to adapt supply chains, where necessary, to minimise potential disruption;
· Ongoing monitoring to ensure that adequate stocks of medicines are routinely built into the Irish medicine supply chain.

Further information on the Government’s Contingency Action Plan for Brexit is available here.