News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 04 January 2021

Media Summary

What will change with Brexit from 1 January 2021?

The Independent, Bethany Dawson, 01 January

Reporting on the end of the Brexit transition period being reached, The Independent outlines what changes this will bring about and how they will affect UK citizens.

On healthcare specifically, the article informs Britons that they are no longer eligible for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling in Europe. However, citizens can use the one they already have until it expires, and when it does they can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card providing free access to emergency healthcare (not private) in most countries worldwide.

The article also reports that the British Medical Journal has previously suggested that there may be a shortage of medication from 1 January. New border regulations and related additional bureaucracy – which began at 11 pm on 31 December – are likely to make for immediate disruption at the UK-France border, potentially leading to medicine shortages. In response, the UK has asked companies to stockpile drugs so that no patient is forced to go without treatment.

 

COVID-19: Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warns coronavirus vaccine shortages will last months

Sky News, Amy Coles, 01 January

Sky News reports that Chris Whitty has warned that vaccine shortages are likely to cause problems for “several months.” Professor Chris Whitty, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, said the UK needs to urgently maximise the number of people who are vaccinated, as he defended a shift to prioritise first doses for as many at-risk people as possible.

But he said a lack of global supplies will likely hamper efforts to protect the nation in the first part of 2021. He said “currently the main barrier to this is vaccine availability, a global issue, and this will remain the case for several months and, importantly, through the critical winter period. Vaccine shortage is a reality that cannot be wished away.”

The makers of the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine said they are working flat out to boost production of their COVID-19 vaccine, but they warned there will be gaps in supply until other vaccines are rolled out.

 

NHS warned “don’t stockpile vaccines” as UK leaves EU

Health Service Journal, Alastair Mclellan, 31 December

Health Service Journal reports that NHS organisations have been warned against stockpiling vaccines in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU and told that any “over ordering” will be “investigated”. The warning is included as part of a communication from NHS England’s Strategic Incident Director for EU Exit, Professor Keith Willett.

Professor Willett’s letter is addressed to the leaders of all NHS regional and local organisations and seeks to clarify how the supplies which the NHS sources from the EU will be affected by the UK’s departure from the union today. He writes that “the continuity of supply preparations undertaken by [the Department of Health and Social Care] will remain in place as they are required to help mitigate against potential disruptions caused by new customs and border processes.”

 

Parliamentary Coverage

New guidance and information for industry

MHRA Guidance Documents, 01 January

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency  has published a range of new guidance documents for industry and organisations to follow after the transition period ends. The documents include guidance on medical devices, importing and exporting, and IT systems.

The new documents replace previously published guidance on what to do from the end of the transition period.

The new guidance can be found here.

 

Additional funding for community pharmacies’ response to COVID-19

Written Statement, Vaughan Gething, Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, 23 December

Welsh Government officials have been in discussion with the representative body of all community pharmacies in Wales, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW), regarding the pressures experienced by pharmacies during the pandemic and the additional expenditure incurred as a result.

Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, subsequently announced that an agreement has been reached to provide additional funding of up to £5.6m directly to pharmacy contractors.

In summary the settlement/agreement comprises:

  • A one off, non-recurrent payment of £5m to meet additional and other staff costs incurred during the pandemic;
  • Up to £0.6m to meet the service costs associated with Government sourced seasonal influenza vaccines administered by pharmacies;
  • A guarantee that should pharmacies be engaged in the Primary Care COVID-19 Immunisation Scheme, service fees would be paid from additional funding; and
  • Deferment of further repayments against the £55m advance payment, made earlier this year, until the 2021-22 financial year, to support community pharmacies cash flow situation for the remainder of this financial year.

The full written statement announcing the funding can be found here.

 

Full Coverage

What will change with Brexit from 1 January 2021?

The Independent, Bethany Dawson, 01 January

When the clocks strike midnight in Europe, 11pm in the UK, not only will a new year be dawning, but Britain will be entering a new political era.

More than four years after the referendum vote, the Brexit transition period will officially be over and the UK will no longer be subject to European Union rules. But how will that change life for the average Brit from 1 January 2021?

Healthcare

Britons are no longer eligible for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling in Europe, however, you’re able to use the one you already have until it expires. When it does, you can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card which will give you free access to (not private) emergency healthcare while travelling across the world.

However, while your EHIC and GHIC will give you cover in most places, you will not be able to access such cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and it’s advised you take out health insurance if you travel to these destinations.

Closer to home, the British Medical Journal has previously suggested that there may be a shortage of medication from 1 January.

New border regulations and related additional bureaucracy – which begin at 11 pm on 31 December as Britain leaves the EU single market and customs union – are likely to make for immediate disruption at the UK-France border. This could lead to medicine shortages.

The UK has asked for companies to stockpile drugs so that no patient goes without treatment.

Food

The trade agreement made “at the eleventh hour” means that there will be no additional tariffs on goods sold between the UK and EU. So, there are currently no warning signs for long-term price hikes.

However, the Food and Drink Federation has warned that the last-minute nature of the trade deal, new customs red tape and recent border chaos triggered by the coronavirus pandemic could still lead to price rises.

Shoppers bringing purchases back to the UK from the EU will avoid having to pay UK duties on goods valued at less than £390.

Free movement and travel

After the transition period ends, the UK will no longer be aligned with EU rules on free movement.

Limitations on travel will now mean British citizens will only be able to spend 90 out of 180 days (or three months out of six) in an EU member state. A visa or permit may be needed to stay for longer in an EU country, to work, to study, or for business travel.

However, different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, where visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.

A visa or permit may be needed to stay for longer in an EU country, to work, to study, or for business travel.

British citizens will remain free to live, work and study in the Republic of Ireland.

UK passport holders will no longer be automatically eligible for residency in EU countries, and many need to apply for work or residency visas.

Those going to Europe with the intention of bringing goods back for personal consumption may see their plans restricted by new allowances on alcohol and tobacco.

The limits on alcohol are 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of still wine and four litres of spirits or nine litres of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22 per cent ABV.

For tobacco, the limit is 200 cigarettes.

Mobile coverage

Mobile networks will no longer be banned from imposing roaming charges – additional fees for using your phone for calls, text messages or internet access abroad – on UK travellers in the EU.

However, a number of leading UK mobile networks have already stated they have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges after the transition period ends.

Pets

Any trip to the EU with a furry friend will now require an Animal Health Certificate to prove the animal is safe to take into the region.

The government advises people to allow for one month to obtain the certificate, as well as any vaccinations a pet might need.

Studying

The UK is no longer a participant of the Erasmus scheme, which allowed for UK students to have a period of subsidised study in Europe.

The government said it will be replaced by the £100m Turing scheme, named after Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing, which will support around 35,000 students to go on placements around the world from September.

Government guidance on visiting Europe states that a visa or permit may be needed for study.

 

COVID-19: Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warns coronavirus vaccine shortages will last months

Sky News, Amy Coles, 01 January

Vaccine shortages are likely to cause problems for “several months”, England’s Chief Medical Officer has warned, amid fears that emergency healthcare staff at COVID “battle stations” are at risk of burnout.

Professor Chris Whitty said the UK needs to urgently maximise the number of people who are vaccinated, as he defended a shift to prioritise first doses for as many at-risk people as possible.

But he said a lack of global supplies will likely hamper efforts to protect the nation in the first part of 2021.

A letter signed by Professor Whitty and the Chief Medical Officers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: “We have to ensure that we maximise the number of eligible people who receive the vaccine.

“Currently the main barrier to this is vaccine availability, a global issue, and this will remain the case for several months and, importantly, through the critical winter period.

“Vaccine shortage is a reality that cannot be wished away.”

The makers of the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine said they are working flat out to boost production of their COVID-19 vaccine, but they warned there will be gaps in supply until other vaccines are rolled out.

“At the moment it doesn’t look good – a hole is appearing because there’s a lack of other approved vaccines and we have to fill the gap with our own vaccine,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told news weekly Spiegel.

Last week Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said a shortage of “fill and finish” materials needed to produce and package vaccines could also slow down the national rollout.

At a Downing Street news conference Professor Van-Tam said: “Many of you know already that it’s not just about vaccine manufacture. It’s about fill and finish, which is a critically short resource across the globe.”

‘We’ll know soon if vaccines reduce transmission’

The warnings came as the UK faces a rising number of COVID patients in hospitals across the nation.

Adrian Boyle, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said many medical staff feel “tired, frustrated and fed-up”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he voiced concerns over a possible burnout: “What is it going to be like over the next couple of months? I don’t know, I am worried.”

“We are very much at battle stations.

“There will be short-term surges of morale but people are tired, frustrated and fed-up, as everybody is, whether they work in hospital or not.”

His comments came as the Royal College of Nursing’s England Director, Mike Adams, said that staff leave was being cancelled to deal with the surge in demand.

Meanwhile, Nightingale hospitals across England are being readied for use to take the pressure off hospitals.

But Mr Adams told Sky News the expectation of a mass rollout of staff for the Nightingale hospitals was “misplaced”.

He added: “If we are having to cancel leave to staff these areas, the obvious question is where will the staff come from to open the Nightingales?

“I have real concerns that the expectation that this mass rollout in capacity can happen is misplaced because there aren’t the staff to do it.”

His observation was backed up by Dr Rafiq Bedair, Senior Responsible Officer for Intensive Care in Southwest London, who told Sky News: “We have a workforce constraint because it takes time to train people who can do this kind of work and the Nightingale Hospital in terms of capacity will be welcome but the staffing is always going to be a challenge.”

On Thursday, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers backed a change in guidance which says booster jabs should be given up to 12 weeks after an initial dose to maximise the number of people being vaccinated.

But the announcement on Wednesday prompted Pfizer to issue a warning over what it called “alternative dosing”.

A spokesperson said: “There are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.

However, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers said: “In terms of protecting priority groups, a model where we can vaccinate twice the number of people in the next 2-3 months is obviously much more preferable in public health terms than one where we vaccinate half the number but with only slightly greater protection.”

Pressure is mounting on the government to control the spread of the COVID-19, which has continued to reach new heights.

The UK recorded a record high of 55,892 coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Thursday, as well as a further 964 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Meanwhile, just under half of major hospitals in England currently have more COVID-19 patients than during the peak of the first wave last year.

But GPs have said changes to the way vaccinations are given are “grossly unfair” for elderly patients with imminent appointments for a vaccine booster.

Dr Richard Vautrey, Chairman of the BMA GP committee, said: “This group of very elderly patients is at the highest risk of death if they contract COVID-19, which is why GPs are so concerned for them.

“It is grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments.

“Local leaders are telling us that is unprofessional and impractical to amend the appointments for thousands of frail elderly patients, particularly those booked and who have already made arrangements to have their second vaccination in the next two weeks.”

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said one million people have been given the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will be rolled out alongside the Pfizer jab from Monday. The UK has 100 million doses on order.

 

NHS warned “don’t stockpile vaccines” as UK leaves EU

Health Service Journal, Alastair Mclellan, 31 December

NHS organisations have been warned against stockpiling vaccines in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU and told that any “over ordering” will be “investigated”.

The warning is included as part of a communication from NHS England’s strategic incident director for EU Exit Professor Keith Willett.

Professor Willett is also the Strategic Incident Director for Covid-19 and NHSE’s National Director for Emergency Planning and Incident Response.

Professor Willett’s letter is addressed to the leaders of all NHS regional and local organisations and seeks to clarify how the supplies which the NHS sources from the EU will be affected by the UK’s departure from the union today.

He writes that “the continuity of supply preparations undertaken by [the Department of Health and Social Care] will remain in place as they are required to help mitigate against potential disruptions caused by new customs and border processes.”

Professor Willett asks NHS organisations to “keep in place the plans and mitigations stood up for the end of the Transition Period until further notice.”

An accompanying document includes a section on vaccine supply.

NHS organisations are told: “Don’t stockpile vaccines beyond BAU levels” and that “over ordering will be investigated”

Pharmacists and emergency planning staff are advised to “meet at a local level to discuss and agree local contingency and collaboration agreements”, while “local cross-system medicines supply continuity plans should be developed and agreed at trust/CCG board level, including arrangements for collaboration to ensure shortages of locally procured vaccines are dealt with promptly.”

The document reveals that “there will be a Vaccines Shortage Response Group for nationally and locally procured vaccines, co-ordinated by PHE with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and with membership from the Devolved Administrations. The group will provide clear governance, communication and decision-making for the management of any vaccine shortages.”

The document stresses that “any COVID-19 vaccine” will “be covered by the express freight capacity if needed.”

The message is repeated in relation to medicines, with doctors and pharmacists told to “prescribe and dispense as normal” and that “prescription durations will be monitored and investigated where necessary.”

On medical device supply, the document warns: “If your organisation relies on getting products and services direct from the EU on a short lead time basis, plan for lead times of around three days or longer and adjust your ordering processes accordingly.” It adds that all staff should be “aware of changes to delivery lead times” and that “business continuity plans are adjusted accordingly.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 04 January 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?