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Cancer test delays likely to occur following Brexit vote

Cervical_screening_blog_pic_2.pngA recent guidance document issued by Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has warned doctors to be prepared for delays for certain drugs used to detect cancer if there is a no-deal Brexit.

The five-page document states that some radiopharmaceutical suppliers "anticipate there may be some delay to their delivery times" and warns clinicians to reduce their workload in the first week following 29 March, the date the UK is set to leave the EU.

Referring to radioisotopes, a radioactive liquid used in the diagnosis and treatment of some cancers - which cannot be stockpiled in advance due to the rapid decay of their radioactivity - the guide adds: "In the weeks leading up to Brexit you should consider how to prioritise requests based on clinical need, should supplies be compromised." According to the RCR, even a ‘one-day delay to delivery would reduce available activity by approximately 20%’.

The guide also states that for one specific type of treatment, radionuclide therapy, "only one supplier has been confident it will be able to deliver therapy doses on particular required days".

However plans are in place to try and lessen the delays, with the Department of Health and Social Care asking radiopharmaceutical suppliers to use air freight to avoid the road disruption that is expected to come with a no deal outcome.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson has added that "leaving the EU with a deal remains the government's top priority” and that they are working with the pharmaceutical industry and closely with the NHS to “minimise any potential impact of changes to delivery times."

Helen Budge, a Senior Solicitor within Potter Rees Dolan's Clinical Negligence team, comments:

It is deeply concerning that cancer treatments, and indeed diagnoses, could be delayed as a consequence of radioisotope shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is bound to cause alarm and distress to patients and there must be a real risk that it could result in avoidable harm.

Helen Budge is a senior clinical negligence solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues and wish to speak with Helen or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.