Ministers attempt to play down Brexit cancer delay warnings

PUBLISHED: 16:21 07 March 2019

There are fears Brexit could cause delays for some cancer treatments. Photo: PA

There are fears Brexit could cause delays for some cancer treatments. Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The government has attempted to calm fears that cancer patients will suffer after Brexit.

The Royal College of Radiologists previously warned doctors to prepare for potential delays in cancer detecting drugs in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

However, health minister Baroness Blackwood insisted ministers did not expect any “patient harm” to arise over the import of radioisotopes - which are commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of some cancers.

Answering an urgent question in the Lords, Lady Blackwood said any changes to “clinical pathways and practice” were expected to be “minor and short-lived”.

She said the government was not expecting any delays or increased waiting times for cancer patients.

Labour former minister Baroness Symons of said the Royal College and other medical authorities had warned that Brexit, and particularly a no-deal Brexit, would mean delays in the supply of imported radioisotopes, which are “so vital in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients”.

She said these bodies were not “convinced anti-Brexiteers trying to sensationalise the position” but experienced and skilled in saving the lives of cancer patients.

Lady Symons urged the government to take no-deal off the table rather than put “vulnerable patients at risk”.

Lady Blackwood said the government had been working closely with the Royal College and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure the NHS had robust contingency plans in place so patients continued to have access to medicines, including radioisotopes, whatever the Brexit outcome.

She said the college had published “sensible and pragmatic” guidance to specialist clinicians, which the government supported, to ensure all necessary operational planning had taken place before March 29.

The minister said many isotopes were already brought in by airfreight and there would be no change in their delivery arrangements.

“It’s absolutely right for the Royal College of Radiologists to put in place some guidelines and we have been working closely with them to offer practical advice in allowing adjustment in clinical processes.

“We don’t expect any patient harm to arise from this and the changes in clinical pathways and practice are expected to be minor and short-lived,” Lady Blackwood said.

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