January 23, 2019 / 3:58 PM / 10 months ago

Dutch hospitals warn no-deal Brexit will put patients in danger

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch hospitals warned on Wednesday that a no-deal Brexit would lead to a shortage of medicines and medical supplies in the Netherlands and could put patients at risk.

The Dutch annually import around 2 billion euros worth of medicines and medical supplies from Britain, which is around 10 percent of all goods shipped from Britain to the Netherlands.

But, echoing concerns in other EU countries, the Dutch fears go beyond this direct import line, as a large number of medical supplies, from bandages to pacemakers, made in other countries receive an EU certification in Britain.

These certifications would become invalid in the EU in the event of Britain leaving the bloc on March 29 without a deal to facilitate trade in goods and services with countries with which it used to have seamless arrangements, meaning hospitals would have to find a replacement for the products involved.

“We foresee great risks for our daily operations if Britain leaves the EU without a deal”, the Dutch Federation of Academic Hospitals (NFU) said.

“This varies from medicines, tissues and medical supplies becoming unavailable, to problems with data storage and the registration of doctors. The safety of patients is at risk.”

Germany’s drug safety regulator concluded this month that Brexit would not put its patients at risk of losing access to essential drugs, while Ireland has drawn up a list of 24 medicines whose supply would be most vulnerable if Britain fails to conclude a divorce deal.

An attempt by British lawmakers to prevent a no-deal Brexit was gaining momentum on Wednesday after the opposition Labour Party said it was highly likely to throw its parliamentary weight behind the bid.

But the EU, whose members are also worried by the prospect of a disorderly Brexit that would cost jobs in major economies in the bloc, cautioned that no-deal was still the default scenario until London proposed something else.

The Netherlands’s Association for General Hospitals said it still had no clear idea of the scale of the problem.

“We have asked our suppliers to find out how much we are talking about”, said spokesman Wouter van der Horst.

The NFU has called for an emergency law permitting the use of UK certified medical goods for at least the rest of the year.

Dutch Health Minister Bruno Bruins said this month he had taken the issue up with his European colleagues, but has so far not given an update on progress on the matter.

“We will only take national measures when a European-wide solution is impossible,” a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Bart Meijer and Anthony Deutsch

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