Matt Hancock struggles to offer assurances on flow of medical supplies after Brexit

LBC host Nick Ferrari (L) and health secretary Matt Hancock; LBC

LBC host Nick Ferrari (L) and health secretary Matt Hancock; LBC - Credit: Archant

The health secretary has struggled to say whether the UK will continue to receive medicines and medical equipment without disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Appearing on the LBC's Call the Cabinet show, Matt Hancock insisted the government had plans in place to shore up flow of medical equipment into Britain after Brexit.

But when Terry from Birmingham called in to say a no-deal Brexit not only threatened his job supplying medical devices to the NHS but also the lives of thousands of patients, the minister appeared to come unstuck.

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'With the majority of our products being manufactured in Europe, we had a challenging time during the March 2019 deadline to get these in and now how can the government say it's a good outcome if we don't have a trade deal?'

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Hancock said there was 'a huge amount of work' being done to ensure medical equipment continued to enter Britain unhindered after Brexit, whether the UK leaves with a deal or not.

Host Nick Ferrari interrupted: 'So, we've moved on from Operation Yellowhammer, have we? It was just a year ago that we found out through Operation Yellowhammer the detrimental impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies.

'You can tell me there will be no problems with those medicines?'

Clutching his forehead, Hancock replied: 'Well, we've put in a huge amount of work before the original deadline and then of course Covid itself has brought enormous challenges and strains on the supply of medicines and medical devices.'

He added that Brussels had removed rules governing medical equipment supplies during the pandemic which made it easier for the UK to source kit from Europe.

'So the supply chain will not be disrupted?' pressed Ferrari.

Hancock replied: 'Well, look, first and foremost I very much hope the Europeans can come to table and we can agree a deal'.

Hancock also said he was as 'gung ho' as the prime minister over leaving Brexit talks by mid-October of no agreement is reached by then.

'So the health of the nation will not be detrimentally impacted by such a robust approach?' Ferrari asked.

'Ah, that's right, because we already have a deal. The question is whether we can land a long-term future trade agreement and I'm confident that we can.'

Ferrari interrupted again: 'So we needn't worry about Yellowhammer?'

'All that planning has been done in case it's needed but I am much more comfortable,' Hancock replied.

'So we will get our drugs, our medical kit?'

Stuttering, Hancock said he was 'comfortable' his department had done the work 'that's needed' to shore up the UK's medical supply chain.

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