Lives are at risk in a no-deal Brexit, says top government health adviser

PUBLISHED: 13:35 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:02 10 October 2019

Former government chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has said the government cannot guarantee lives will not be lost as a result of medical shortages in a no-deal Brexit. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Archive/PA Images

Former government chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has said the government cannot guarantee lives will not be lost as a result of medical shortages in a no-deal Brexit. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Archive/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

England's former chief medical adviser, Dame Sally Davies, said that lives "are at risk" in a no-deal Brexit because the government cannot guarantee there will not be medical shortages.

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Dame Sally said that "we can't guarantee at the moment" that nobody will die as a result of the NHS not having a steady supply of medicines and equipment if we leave the EU without a deal.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she was asked if she was "certain" that the health service would have the medicines it needs.

She replied: "The health service and everyone has worked very hard to prepare, but I say what I've said before: we cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only of medicines but technology and gadgets and things.

"And there may be deaths. We can't guarantee at the moment.

"So patients' lives could be at risk?" asked the interviewer.

"They are at risk," she said simply, before the interview ended.

Dame Sally served as chief medical officer for England and chief medical adviser to the UK government between 2010 and September this year, and is now the special envoy on antimicrobial resistance.

Her Today programme interview made headlines as a result of her sweeping recommendations to prevent childhood obesity, such as banning snacking on public transport.

But the question about Brexit pegged on the end of the interview also reminded listeners of the perilous medical situation a no-deal Brexit could bring.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We fully understand the concerns some people have about the availability of medicines.

"We are doing everything we can to help ensure they can access the treatments they need after Brexit.

"The government, industry and NHS have put in place robust preparations for Brexit, which consists of stockpiling, securing transport and warehouse capacity and working closely with businesses on their readiness for day one."

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