| 5°C Belfast

Brexit NI Protocol threatens supply of medication and medical devices, warns Swann


Minister for Heath Robin Swann (PA)

Minister for Heath Robin Swann (PA)

Minister for Heath Robin Swann (PA)

The supply of medication and medical devices to Northern Ireland is under threat as a result of the Protocol, the Health Minister has said.

UUP MLA Robin Swann said he is "concerned" about the post-Brexit supply of crucial treatments for patients in Northern Ireland as he appeared in front of the Stormont health committee on Thursday morning.

However, he said he has no plans to take legal action to ensure there is no disruption once derogations on the delivery of medical supplies cease at the end of this year.

Mr Swann also revealed the controversial triggering of Article 16 by the EU at the start of the year has “unsettled” pharmaceutical companies.

The issue was raised by DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley, who asked Mr Swann whether the threat to supply would have arisen without the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Mr Swann said: “That is a political question and from my point of view as an Ulster Unionist health minister, I would agree, yes.

“It is something that concerns me, that’s why we have been engaged quite significantly in regards to this.

“The derogation period for medicines was one of the longest that was actually agreed at the start, which gave us to the end of this year actually to get things sorted out and in a better place.

“Everyone thought that work was progressing well until the EU triggered Article 16 over vaccines. That unnerved people, that unsettled people and that has, I suppose, increased the level of concern we are seeing, especially from the smaller, the more intricate suppliers of medicines and medical devices.”

Almost all of the medication and medical devices in Northern Ireland, 98%, is delivered through Great Britain and is subject to a raft of new controls following Brexit.

A number of derogations have been put in place which have so far minimised the impact on medication supply.

Last week, the health committee was told a request to extend the grace period relating to the movement of medical supplies to Northern Ireland had not been agreed.

And updating the committee on Thursday, Mr Swann said there has been no further movement on the matter.

Explaining that he was “concerned” by the lack of progress, he said: “When grace periods were initially indicated, the one for medicines and medical devices was the longest because we knew the difficulties there were going to be.

“So, any extension to a grace period would be welcome because it would allow us to put firmer foundations into the supplies that are needed.”

The minister was asked for assessment after members argued last week over whether the Northern Ireland Protocol is to blame for the threat to the post-Brexit supply of medication here.

Officials have described the potential disruption as “high risk”.

Chair of the committee, Colm Gildernew, laid the blame for the issues on decision to leave the EU: “These issues have not arisen as a result of the Protocol, the Protocol has in fact provided some protections.

“Supply of medicines is under threat and it clearly is under threat as a result of Brexit and I think we have been saying now for quite some time that there is no good Brexit.”

Meanwhile, Mr Buckley and UUP MLA Alan Chambers said they believe the Protocol has led to the issues relating to the supply of medication and medical devices.

Top Videos