Jim Allister: The Northern Ireland Protocol is literally bad for your health, by disrupting the flow of medicines
I have previously warned of the danger the Protocol poses to Northern Ireland’s medical supplies.
As I revealed last month, as things currently stand from 1st January 2022 the Northern Ireland Protocol will mean that we will be tied to the EU policy on medicines.
Furthermore, just this week the Financial Times carried a story on how EU imposed red tape is already creating problems for the free flow of vital drug and medical supplies into Northern Ireland with UK companies starting to withdraw medicines from this part of our country.
Although these drugs are safe, medicines made in Great Britain will have to be licensed separately for use in Northern Ireland and undergoing separate safety inspections and other checks before they can be released for patients.
Yesterday I was contacted by the UK’s largest supplier of podiatry products, Canonbury Products Ltd, expressing concern about their difficulties in getting products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. They have been advised by courier firms that once the grace period is over they will be applying the same restrictions which have been imposed on shipments to the Republic. They tell me:
“Those restrictions are already preventing us from supplying basic consumable items such as scalpels, orthoses, paddings and dressings as well as podiatry drills and other Medical Devices into the Republic. We are therefore gravely concerned that unless changes are made to the Northern Ireland Protocol these same issues will impact Northern Ireland from the 1st October, 2021.
“We are aware that some of our competitors have already ceased business to Northern Ireland due to increased costs and Customs complexities. Those of us still supplying are having to implement costly updates to our systems and processes as well as expecting to make further changes to systems from 1st October – all of which come at a cost which we are having to pass onto customers.
“All of these changes are impacting most on private practice podiatry in Northern Ireland – small community-based healthcare businesses which are already facing financial and trading difficulties due to the impact of Covid. Many of their patients and clients are vulnerable, elderly and/or have complex podiatry needs – especially if they have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or other chronic conditions.”
As I have said before the Protocol is, quite literally, bad for your health. The difficulties which have already arisen are only likely to increase in number and complexity in the coming months and years. Time has shown that the problems with the Protocol are not cosmetic. They are fundamental. There is one solution and one only which is acceptable from a constitutional, business and health point of view – the Protocol must go. There can be No Sea Border.
• Mr Allister has tabled the following question to the Health Minister:
To ask the Minister of Health what is his assessment of threat posed by the Protocol to the supply of podiatry products from GB, both to the public and private sectors and what consequential representations have been made by the department.
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