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Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Hancock threatens Brexit deal only way to ensure 'unhindered supply of medicines'

Written by Jennifer McKiernan & Elizabeth Arnold

MPs should vote for the Brexit deal to ensure medical stockpiles do not run out, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told the Commons.

Mr Hancock said "voting for the deal is the best way to ensure unhindered supply of medicines", in response to health questions.

He reportedly told the Prime Minister and her Cabinet that he "could not guarantee people would not die" if the UK ended up with a no-deal Brexit as it would disrupt access to medical supplies.

In the Commons, Labour MP Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) asked Mr Hancock to outline his plans for making sure patients could get medicine or if stockpiles would run out.

He said: "In the event of a no deal, what steps would be taken to secure the supply of medicines beyond the six-week stockpile that has been recommended by the Government to drug companies?"

Mr Hancock could not confirm plans were firmly in place, suggesting they were still being worked up.

"Whilst voting for the deal is the best way to ensure unhindered supply of medicines and medical devices, as a responsible Government we're also planning for the unlikely event of a no deal," he said.

"That planning includes ensuring we can continue to get access unhindered after the six weeks for which we're making sure the supplies are available."

Another Labour MP, Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), said Mrs May's Political Declaration would mean patients would have to wait six months longer for new drugs.

She said: "We're currently an influential member of the European Medicines Agency, which gives patients access to new drugs six months sooner than non-members.

"Given the Political Declaration reduces us to exploring the possibility of co-operation with the EMA will he admit there are no guarantees for patients and they will likely have to wait longer?"

He replied: "No. Because under any circumstances we will make sure there are no further burdens on ensuring medicines can be licensed here so patients can use them - but it is another reason she should vote for the deal."

Conservative MP Anna Soubry asked Mr Hancock whether the NHS windfall was indeed a "Brexit dividend" or whether it would be continued if the UK remained in the EU as well.

She said: "The much-heralded £20 billion extra for the NHS, many say, is some sort of Brexit dividend.

"In the event the country remains in the EU, can he confirm that extra 3.4% a year will continue and that £20 billion will be made available to our NHS?"

Mr Hancock swerved the question, instead insisting the UK would leave the EU next year.

He said: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to let her know we are leaving the EU on 29 March."

Labour all for Government to reverse cuts to NHS staff training

GP numbers have dropped by 700 in the last 12 months and there are an estimated 107,000 vacancies across the NHS, Labour has claimed.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on the Government to "reverse those cuts to training and deliver the staff our NHS need".

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock hit back insisting there were record numbers of GPs in training and a record number of nurses in the NHS, adding: "We want to do more and we will."

He said every EU worker in the health system "is welcome here" and "we are grateful for their service".

Speaking during Commons health and social care questions, Mr Ashworth said: "I know the secretary of state got into a muddle last week on his GP figures so perhaps can I suggest he downloads an exciting new app to his phone, it's called the calculator.

"Now on the point about more for community and primary care by 2024, can he today guarantee that there will be the extra GPs and extra district nurses to provide those services he is promising?"

Mr Hancock replied: "Yes I can because we are doing everything that we can to make sure that we have the people. Given that we're having the money coming into the NHS, we need to make sure we've got the people to do the work and I'm delighted to say we have a record number of GPs in training right now."

Mr Ashworth raised concerns over the Health Education England budget.

He said: "GP numbers have gone down by 700, haven't they, in the last year. We have 107,000 vacancies across the NHS, we've got acute trusts closing A&E departments overnight, looking at closing chemotherapy departments, and the Health Education England training budget is the lowest it's been for five years, with more cuts to come next year.

"So will he agree that if his long-term plan next week is to be credible he has to reverse those cuts to training and deliver the staff our NHS needs?"

Mr Hancock replied: "It's a bit of a surprise because he's normally such a reasonable fellow. I thought he'd welcome the record numbers of GPs in training, that he'd welcome the record number of nurses that we have in the NHS, and yes, of course, because we love the NHS, we want to do more and we will."

SNP MP Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) called on Mr Hancock to apologise for the term "queue jumpers", adding that many public health workers were EU nationals.

He said: "Now, does he share my concerns about the term 'queue jumpers', will he apologise for that, and will he go further and make sure that no public health worker will be faced with additional costs in order to remain in their homes in the UK?"

Mr Hancock said: "Well every EU worker across our health system, the social care system, whether in the NHS itself, working in public health, in local authorities on these areas or in social care, is welcome here, is supported to be welcome here. We look forward to the settled status scheme rolling out and we are grateful for their service."

Theresa May earlier said she used the wrong language when she told business leaders her post-Brexit immigration plans would stop EU workers being able to "jump the queue".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Kirsty O'Connor / PA Wire.