Brexit: are there risks to Lancashire hospital supply chains?

Contingency plans for post-Brexit supply routes have mostly been dealt with at a national level
Contingency plans for post-Brexit supply routes have mostly been dealt with at a national level
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There are potentially “huge risks” to the supply routes relied upon by hospitals in Central Lancashire - depending on the outcome of Brexit.

That was the warning from the finance boss at the trust which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals.

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A board meeting of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals also heard that the number of EU staff employed at the two sites - but who are planning to leave the UK after Brexit - has increased in the last six months.

Finance Director Paul Havey told members that the government had initially advised trusts to sit tight following the referendum result in June 2016.

“For a long time, the Department for Health said ‘don’t do anything’ - and [only more recently] have we been analysing our supplier relationships.

“There was no clarity about what we, as an organisation, should do and so we have now spoken to our suppliers about their chains.

“Some are multinational companies and there are huge risks about how much comes in through those few main supply routes,” Mr. Havey said.

Meanwhile, the meeting also heard “anecdotal evidence” that a growing number of the trust’s EU staff were intending to leave in the next twelve months.

“More staff have indicated that they are not likely to stay beyond next year,” Karen Swindley, workforce director at the trust, said.

“That wasn’t the case six months ago and we are continuing to feed that back to the NHS nationally,” she added.

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said:

“As a responsible government, we are planning for all eventualities in the event of a no deal. This includes working with pharmaceutical companies and the NHS to ensure patients have continued access to the medicines and they need.

“We have also secured the rights of all EU citizens in the UK and our dedicated EU doctors are among the first to be able to secure their settled status – underlining our commitment to them.”

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals took part in a Home Office pilot scheme to help EU workers acquire settled status, which permits them to remain in the country indefinitely.

The Department for Health and Social Care has also developed a local "self-assessment tool" to help NHS trusts identify any local contracts which are not part of national contingency planning.

Meanwhile, the chair of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, Sue Musson, said the organisation needed to “keep a watchful brief” on the situation.