The £25 million contract will ensure critical supplies of drugs and medicine will be unaffected if the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement on October 31. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed the proposed contractor will make sure medical supplies are delivered from oversees to the UK within 24 hours. The DHSC also stated larger quantities of medicine can be transported to Britain in between two and four days. Health minister Chris Skidmore said the plan will “ensure frontline services are fully prepared”.
Mr Skidmore added the freight service will strengthen the already “resilient contingency plans” outlined by the department.
The Government has already urged pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of essential medicines in the event of a no deal outcome on Halloween.
Mr Skidmore said: “I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared.
“That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans.
“This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU.”
The service will initially run for 12 months and any interested providers have until August 21 to submit proposals and the successful bidder will be announced in September.
At this stage it is unclear what form of transport the service will take.
Critics have hit out at the Government’s plans. The British Medical Association (BMA) has said it is “beyond alarming” the health of Britons could be dependant on a freight service.
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the BMA said: “It is beyond alarming that the future delivery of medicine and medical supplies in the UK could be dependent on a freight service – for which the supplier hasn’t yet even been appointed.
“This latest announcement from the Government is a further indication of the chaos that will lay in store for the NHS and patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit and highlights just how costly this will be.”
Labour also condemned the proposals and insisted Mr Johnson is “putting people’s health at risk”.
A Labour spokeswoman said: “It’s alarming that after three years the Government is still leaving Brexit preparations to the 11th hour and that the health of patients is dependent on a contractor yet to be selected.
“It’s shameful and irresponsible that Boris Johnson is stubbornly refusing to rule out No Deal.
“The Tories are putting people’s health at risk.”