News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 09 February 2021

Media Summary

Tens of thousands of UK nurses yet to receive first dose
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 09 February

The Guardian reports that tens of thousands of nurses across the UK have not had their first Coronavirus vaccine, sparking fears that they could contract COVID-19 or infect patients. A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey of 24,370 nurses found that 85% had had at least one dose, with the remaining 15% unvaccinated.

The findings show that the government is in danger of failing to deliver one of the main elements of its pledge that all 15 million Britons in the top four priority groups for immunisation – which includes all health and social care staff – should have been offered a first shot by next Monday, 15 February.

“It is extremely worrying that, as our survey suggests, many thousands of nursing staff have yet to be given their COVID-19 vaccine less than a week before the government’s deadline,” said Dame Donna Kinnair, the RCN’s Chief Executive and General Secretary. She added, “with only days to go, every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure their protection and that of the patients and vulnerable people they care for.” The RCN said scaling that 15% up to its 450,000-strong membership suggested an estimated 75,000 nurses had still not had their initial jab.

 

EU poised to reject two-year extension to Northern Ireland grace period
The Telegraph, Harry Yorke & James Crisp, 08 February

Brussels appears poised to reject the UK’s calls for a two-year extension of the grace periods for post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland, reports the Telegraph.

Multiple Whitehall and EU sources have told The Telegraph that the European Commission is likely to agree to only a three to six-month extension of the arrangements in place for traders moving goods between Britain and the province. The mooted extension falls far short of Michael Gove’s request for the EU to agree to extend measures in place to reduce red tape on supermarket goods, chilled meats, parcels and medicines until January 2023.

Ahead of a crunch meeting in London on Thursday, EU figures also accused the UK of exploiting an international backlash against Brussels over its aborted move to erect a hard vaccine border on the island of Ireland.  While the UK argues the controversy has highlighted the need for urgent solutions to the problems being experienced in Northern Ireland, EU diplomats claimed the issue was being used to try to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol.

This was also reported in the IndependentReuters, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

International Trade Committee launches inquiry in UK-EU trade relationship
International Trade Committee, 08 February

The International Trade Committee is launching a new inquiry into the UK-EU trade relationship, focussing on the implementation of the trade provisions of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The inquiry will explore:

  • The experiences of businesses and other stakeholders in the UK regarding implementation of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement’s trade provisions;
  • How effectively the UK-EU trade relationship is being managed through the mechanisms under the Agreement;
  • The impact of the Agreement, now and in the future, on the UK’s wider trade policy – including in relation to trade with non-EU countries; and
  • How the implementation of the Agreement – along with the wider UK-EU trade relationship – is likely to evolve

Angus Brendan MacNeil, the Chair of the Committee, said: “Since the new arrangements for UK-EU trade began at the turn of the year, numerous reports have shown that businesses and consumers are experiencing a range of difficulties. My Committee will be exploring these issues, including their impact on particular industries – not least those concerned with exporting perishable foodstuffs.”

You can read the full press release here.

 

Letter on the flow of pharmaceutical products between the UK and EU
Stephen Crabb MP, Welsh Affairs Committee, 08 February

Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb MP, has written to the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, about the flow of pharmaceutical products between the UK and EU.

In a recent Welsh Affairs Committee session, one witness, Ian Price from the CBI, spoke about a pharmaceutical company manufacturing cancer drugs having to relocate production from Wales to Dublin. He said that two to three hundred consignments had to be destroyed after being blocked somewhere in the system in Europe. Mr Crabb MP asked if the Secretary of State was aware of the following issues, and asked if the UK Government had been informed about other instances of pharmaceutical firms experiencing issues importing or exporting products.

The full letter can be found here.

 

House of Commons, Written Answer, 02 February

Liam Byrne (Labour, Birmingham Hodge Hill): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to use the 11,300 community pharmacies in England to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at scale.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon): From 1 February 2021, 130 community pharmacies have started to offer the COVID-19 vaccination service, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with more pharmacies joining the service over the coming weeks. Some pharmacists and members of their team have also been working with general practitioners to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are working with all the national pharmacy organisations on plans to ensure that community pharmacies are used to optimal effect in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, starting with the sites that can do this at scale.

 

Northern Ireland Assembly, Written Question, 08 February

David Hilditch (DUP, Antrim East): To ask the Minister of Health what plans his Department has to use community pharmacies as part of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out.

 

Full Coverage

Tens of thousands of UK nurses yet to receive first dose
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 09 February

Tens of thousands of nurses across the UK have not had their first Coronavirus vaccine, sparking fears that they could contract COVID-19 or infect patients.

A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey of 24,370 nurses found that 85% had had at least one dose, with the remaining 15% unvaccinated.

The findings show that the government is in danger of failing to deliver one of the main elements of its pledge that all 15 million Britons in the top four priority groups for immunisation – which includes all health and social care staff – should have been offered a first shot by next Monday, 15 February.

“It is extremely worrying that, as our survey suggests, many thousands of nursing staff have yet to be given their COVID-19 vaccine less than a week before the government’s deadline,” said Dame Donna Kinnair, the RCN’s Chief Executive and General Secretary.

“With only days to go, every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure their protection and that of the patients and vulnerable people they care for.”

The RCN said scaling that 15% up to its 450,000-strong membership suggested an estimated 75,000 nurses had still not had their initial jab.

The college said it was critical that all nurses had a COVID vaccine so that they, their families and patients were protected, adding that any nurse left unvaccinated was “a risk to themselves and those they care for”.

While 91% of nurses directly employed by the NHS have had at least one jab, just 71% working for other organisations – such as district nurses, health visitors or those in care homes – have received theirs.

Overall, 20,719 (85%) of those surveyed had received the first of the two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Seven in 10 of those who had not yet had a vaccine worked in non-NHS settings.

While only 6% of nurses who work directly for the health service have not been offered a vaccine, much greater proportions of nurses who work through an employment agency (35%) or as temporary staff (19%) have still not been invited for an appointment.

A minority of nurses do not want to have a COVID vaccine. The RCN asked the 1,624 nurses who had not taken up an offer of a jab why they had refused. Of those, 38% said they did not want to have the vaccine at the moment or were undecided, and 12% did not want to have a vaccine at all. A third (33%), however, had an appointment booked and planned to attend.

Overall, 902 respondents (4%) said they had decided not to have a vaccine or been advised against doing so. The most common reasons they cited were: worry that the vaccine was unsafe or had not been tested enough; fears about side-effects; and belief that it may not prove effective in the long term against all strains of COVID-19.

Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts in England, said: “It is encouraging to see high levels of NHS staff uptake on the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as indicated by this survey.

“It is really important that as many staff as possible take the opportunity to get vaccinated to help protect colleagues and patients. Trusts are making concerted efforts to ensure coverage is as comprehensive as possible.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was following the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation’s advice and would have offered everyone in the top four priority groups a vaccine by next week.

A spokesperson said: “This includes temporary, agency and voluntary workers who are at an increased risk of contracting or transmitting the virus to other people particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as to other staff in a healthcare environment.

“The NHS is working at pace to vaccinate these groups and we are on track to offer a vaccination to everyone in these first four priority groups by mid-February.”

 

EU poised to reject two-year extension to Northern Ireland grace period
The Telegraph, Harry Yorke & James Crisp, 08 February

Brussels appears poised to reject the UK’s calls for a two-year extension of the grace periods for post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

Multiple Whitehall and EU sources have told The Telegraph that the European Commission is likely to agree to only a three to six-month extension of the arrangements in place for traders moving goods between Britain and the province.

Ahead of a crunch meeting in London on Thursday, EU figures also accused the UK of exploiting an international backlash against Brussels over its aborted move to erect a hard vaccine border on the island of Ireland.

While the UK argues the controversy has highlighted the need for urgent solutions to the problems being experienced in Northern Ireland, EU diplomats claimed the issue was being used to try and force through a renegotiation of the agreement.

The mooted extension falls far short of Michael Gove’s request for the EU to agree to extend measures in place to reduce red tape on supermarket goods, chilled meats, parcels and medicines until January 2023.

It has also reignited calls from the DUP for Boris Johnson to unilaterally override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was established to smooth over trade issues created by the province continuing to apply some EU customs rules at its ports.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s Westminster leader, told The Telegraph: “I am disappointed but not surprised by this meagre response from the European Union. I really don’t think the Irish government understands the extent of the difficulty consumers and businesses are experiencing in Northern Ireland.

“Simply extending the grace period doesn’t resolve any of the difficulties and doesn’t fix the underlying problem, which is that people in Northern Ireland are facing barriers to trade with the United Kingdom.

“If this is the best the EU can do, by kicking the can down the road a little further and offering no substantive change… then the Prime Minister has a duty to act, and he has the power to act.”

Separately, George Eustice, the the Environment Secretary, wrote to Brussels calling for an “urgent resolution” to unexpected barriers being placed on some shellfish exports.

It comes after the EU warned fishermen that some types of live shellfish caught in parts of the UK’s fishing waters could not be exported to the bloc – a move the UK says does not tally with previous assurances it had received.

Appearing before the Commons EU Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, Mr Gove told MPs that while he believed that problems in Northern Ireland could be dealt with, the two sides were still “very far from resolving” them.

He added that while ministers did not wish to trigger Article 16, enabling them to override parts of the protocol causing trade friction, the EU needed to be “practical and pragmatic” to avoid the measure of last resort being used.

“One of the points that I’ve made is that if people put a particular type of integrationist theology ahead of the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, they are not serving the cause of peace and progress in Northern Ireland,” he said. “That is my principal and overriding concern.”

Mr Gove also expressed his alarm that the EU may seek to trigger Article 16 again in the future, warning that its actions last month had opened the “Pandora’s box.”

“Article 16 isn’t there to ensure the EU’s vaccine procurement program can be salvaged,” he said. “There needs to be a realisation on all sides that this isn’t some arcane bit of diplomatic procedure. This has real consequences on the ground.”

His comments will be seen as a thinly-veiled swipe at Ursula von der Leyen and commissioners in Brussels, who have been accused of failing to understand the sensitivities around Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

However, ahead of a meeting between Mr Gove and his EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, on Thursday, a Whitehall source said the EU was privately indicating it would only accept an extension of between three and six months.

“They are amenable to a three-month extension… whether we can do more we will probably have to wait for this week’s discussions,” the source added.

Two EU sources also confirmed that discussions were taking place over an extension of up to six months.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 09 February 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

Apply to become a Member

Membership of the HDA guarantees your organisation:

  • Access to leading policy and industry forums of debate and discussion
  • Invitations to a range of networking industry events organised through the year, including an Annual Conference and a Business Day
  • Representation on HDA working parties, including the Members’ Liaison Group
  • A daily Political and Media Bulletin and HDA Newsletters
  • Access to HDA policy documents and all sections of the HDA website
  • Branding and marketing opportunities
Apply Now

Already a Member?