The National Health Service (NHS) is carrying out planning for a "no deal" Brexit scenario, according to the chief executive of NHS England.

Simon Stevens said that contingency plans are being drawn up to cope with the possibility that importing medicines and medical equipment could be delayed if the UK leaves the EU without securing an agreement on the future trade relationship.

"There is now significant planning going on around all the scenarios, including these medicine supply scenarios," he told the BBC.

Read more: Freedom of movement not on table at Cabinet's Brexit meeting says minister

While the government's policy is that a trade deal will be reached, the possibility of a "no deal" Brexit continues to be floated by some Conservative party politicians.

The government's own scenario plans reportedly show that medicine shortages would hit the UK within a fortnight of leaving the EU without a deal. Under such a scenario trade would default to World Trade Organization rules, a significant departure from the current Single Market arrangements.

In the event of disruption to imports, "right at the top of the list has got to be those medical supplies", Stevens said.

Stevens had previously told MPs in October that the NHS had not been asked to prepare for a "no deal" Brexit by politicians.

"There is immediate planning which the health department with other parts of government are undertaking around securing medical equipment under different scenarios," he said today.

The NHS's eventual response to Brexit will "crystallise later this autumn", once it becomes clearer what the final deal will look like, Stevens said.

Read more: Barnier says huge Brexit divergences exist as May wants talks to accelerate




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