East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party representative Roy Beggs MLA has written to Lord Frost, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Prime Minister to outline his concern at the likely interruption to medical supplies in Northern Ireland as a result of the Protocol. The UUP MLA has also written to EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič to outline his concerns and directly asked “what actions you are taking to protect the health and lives of NI citizens by removing this unnecessary protocol?”.
In his correspondence, Roy Beggs MLA says:
“I wish to express my alarm that medication that has been prescribed to patients in Northern Ireland is likely to be interrupted at the end of the year unless accommodation is made by the EU. I understand the EU are insisting on new packaging specific to NI and control over the supply of medicines used in NI. This bespoke packaging is adding costs to supply medicines to NI and the NI Health Service. I understand that this is likely to result in some smaller companies withdrawing from supplying to NI.
I am alarmed at the lack of urgency shown by the EU over this matter. Whilst NI currently has an exemption which is in place until December 2021, suppliers have to give 6 months’ notice of any intention to cease supplying. So this EU requirement will be effecting supplier decisions and tenders from the end of June 2021 onward.
Given the additional costs and uncertainty, I am concerned that some medical suppliers will notify the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety of their intention to cease to supply during the month of June 2021. There is therefore not seven months but only one month to reach an agreement on medicines and medical supplies in Northern Ireland.
I would highlight that medical supplies to the Northern Ireland Health Service has a zero risk of threatening the EU single market as goods and products are not sold on but form part of our free National Health Service and are issued with a prescription approved by a GP.
I would urge that you would recognise this and ensure that these unnecessary and unreasonable requirements in the NI Protocol are removed so that NI citizens have unfettered access to a full range, and competitively priced medication and medical devices within the UK. NI has the longest waiting lists in the UK and indeed Europe. Our Health Service needs to meet the needs of patients and enable as many as possible to be treated within our limited budget. The effect of the protocol is adding to the pressures on our health service, rather than helping us.
Please advise what actions you are taking to protect the health and lives of NI citizens by removing this unnecessary protocol.”