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Brexit

No-deal Brexit will put lives at risk, health chief warns

By Catherine Wylie and Sam Blewett, PA Political Staff

People could die as a result of a no-deal Brexit, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for England has warned.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said it cannot be guaranteed that there will be no medical shortages if the UK crashes out of the European Union at the end of the month.

There are fears that leaving the EU without a deal in place could hit imports of medicine.

Last week, NHS Wales unveiled a so-called "Brexit Warehouse" to store around 1,000 extra products including medical gloves, needles and dressings at a cost of about £5 million.

Dame Sally told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The health service and everyone has worked very hard to prepare.

"But I say what I've said before - that we cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only in medicines but technology and gadgets and things.

"And there may be deaths, we can't guarantee there won't."

Pressed whether lives are at risk, she replied firmly: "They are at risk."

Her comments come just a couple of days after the Government published a Brexit "no-deal readiness" report in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that he can "confidently" say the UK is prepared to leave the EU without a deal on October 31.

On the issue of health, the report said: "The UK will continue to play a world-leading role in health security, patient safety and medical advance after Brexit.

"Opportunities may include innovative regulation of novel advanced therapies and medicines, and a streamlined approach to clinical trial reporting and conduct.

"These strengths in health research will be further supported by fast-track visas for world-leading scientists."

The report outlines plans to set up a dedicated support unit for suppliers of medical goods in the health sector, with the aim of helping to ensure that companies have the necessary customs paperwork in place for border arrangements ahead of a no-deal scenario.

It says suppliers of all medicines and medical products should ensure they are ready to comply with the new customs and border processes required to import and export goods between the UK and the EU.

The report also says adult social care providers should plan for longer lead times of up to five days for products imported from the EU, and be prepared to receive stock deliveries outside normal hours.