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The 'life-threatening' reality no-deal Brexit poses for patients and their medical supplies

An awful lot has been written about what would happen if we crash out of the EU with no-deal.

So much so, that many are accusing the doomsayers of scaremongering and undoubtedly there may be some.

But in one area, medicine, there is a strong belief that the warnings aren’t scaremongering but reasoned and legitimate concerns.

A few months ago the Department of Health and Social Care recommended all pharmaceutical companies stockpile six weeks worth of medicine.

They have made it very clear everything is being done to ensure medication doesn’t run out and they have plans in place to honour that.

The problem isthe oncologists we have spoken to want more detail.

They have cancer patients due to start radiotherapy and, would you believe it, all the isotopes used in certain treatments come from Europe.

Will flights carrying the nuclear medicine still be allowed in?

And crucially, if they are, will they get held up at customs?

Radioactive medicine loses effectiveness overtime so every minute counts.

Granted, this might affect a small number of patients, but they are patients none the less, who need this treatment and thus, need more detail on how the supply chain will continue unhindered.

Responding to the concerns, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV News that he has ordered planes to be on standby to deliver time-sensitive supplies - such as medical radioisotopes - if lorries are held up.

"I'm confident if everybody does what they need to do - that includes resolving those transport issues - there will be that unhindered supply that everybody wants to see," he said.

"We are doing the hard work now, whatever the scenario, to make sure the NHS will be strong and secure."

Of course, it’s not just fear about isotopes but all medication.

Cancer drugs, insulin, medical equipment, even as we heard at the weekend, body bags, are all being stockpiled.

Wockhardt is one of the largest generic pharmaceutical companies in the world.

With over 350 products, the company supplies its own brands to hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers.

On Wednesday, they let us film inside one of their warehouses where they are stockpiling medicine.

It’s the first time a pharmaceutical company has allowed TV cameras in, to see their stockpiles and it suddenly brought home what is going on.

The company's Managing Director, Sirjiwan Singh, says it’s a prudent measure because it makes business sense but also because he doesn’t want to see patients lose out on their drugs.

Their warehouse has double the amount of drugs it usually holds, costing Mr Singh an extra £10 million pounds which he doesn’t expect to get back.

There are strict restrictions on drug prices so he won’t be passing the costs on.

Mr Singh has about four months worth of antibiotics, anti-diabetic drugs, bovine insulin and many more.

He’s taking no chances and says he’d be surprised if other firms weren’t doing the same.

Such measures are only partly reassuring for Georgina Tankard.

She has breast cancer and not only needs radiotherapy in a few weeks time but will also need hormone treatment drugs afterwards.

She wants to know why patients like herself should suffer because politicians can’t exit the EU in an orderly manner.

Ms Tankard says it is shameful there is uncertainty around the cancer drugs she needs, since she didn’t ask for Brexit, or indeed cancer.

She wants to know what will happen after the six weeks if stockpiled medicines run out, and nothing is resolved?

It’s a legitimate question.

Patients are being told that if there is a supply problem with their medication, pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe a different treatment.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anxiety.

Dr Jeanette Dickson, Vice President for Clinical Oncology at the Royal College of Radiologists, is not convinced the Government will be able to solve the problems a no-deal Brexit could create in the time frame.

Senior oncologist, Clive Peedell, goes further.

He told us lives will be put at risk if there’s a no-deal.

Any delays at borders to radio-pharmaceutical agents could be life-threatening to patients.

He says this isn’t scaremongering, it’s a reality.