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DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley who is also a member of Stormont’s Health Committee has urged the Health Minister Robin Swann to confirm what action he is taking to prevent disruption to the supply of medicines into Northern Ireland once the twelve-month grace period from the terms of the Protocol ends this December.

Commenting, Mr Buckley said:

‘‘The success of the local Covid vaccination programme has underlined the importance of having unfettered local access to supply and distribution networks for medicines right across the United Kingdom. Without this, the roll-out of life-saving protection and plans to ease restrictions would have been delayed even further.

It is wholly unacceptable that as a result of those who championed and imposed the Protocol, there is now uncertainty about the future supply of medicines to Northern Ireland. Even Brussels' cheerleaders recognise their approach to a vaccination programme has been shambolic.

The current grace period on medicines masks the serious and rising threat of disruption to medicinal supplies from Great Britain after 31 December. It is worth remembering that this is the market from which the Department of Health sources 98% of all of its medicines. The grace period was intended to give businesses time to prepare but there is evidence that many firms will simply choose not to serve the Northern Ireland market if it means new and costly checks that aren't required in the rest of the UK. There are also fears that access to clinical trials or new medicines would be restricted and delayed.

There is a pressing need for the Department of Health, under the Minister, to scale up efforts to prevent any disruption. He must make it clear to London, Dublin and Brussels that public health in Northern Ireland will not be held to ransom by the oppressive and undemocratic arrangements of the Protocol. All options must be explored and no stone left unturned as we seek to protect our health service and meet the needs of local patients.

This is another example of the flawed nature of the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is must go."