Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has urged people not to individually stockpile drugs ahead of Brexit as she said Scotland’s NHS is “as prepared as it can be” for the impact of leaving the EU.

The UK Government’s Operation Yellowhammer document warns of shortages of medicine and medical supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

On a visit to NHS Scotland’s national distribution centre, where supplies have been stockpiled, Ms Freeman said preparations are “well advanced” and people who rely on drugs or medical equipment should be “reassured”.

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BrexitHealth Secretary Jeane Freeman said she is reassured ‘that we are doing everything we can’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She was shown round the centre by Jim Miller, NHS National Services Scotland procurement director, who said up to eight weeks’ extra supply of some medical products has been stockpiled, costing around £5 million.

The centre holds around 9,500 items for use in the NHS, such as IV fluids, medical gloves, bandages, swabs and oxygen tubes.

Ms Freeman said: “I’ve got up to date with how we have got increased stocks, the basis on which they decide which stocks to increase and by how much and generally just seeing what is an exceptionally efficient operation from our health service.

“You should be reassured that we are doing everything we can.

“I would ask you not to stockpile because I think that creates difficulties down the line and trust the work that we have put in place is doing everything that we can to ensure that you get the medication that you need.”

BrexitThe centre holds around 9,500 items for use in the NHS (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government and NHS are “working really hard” to ensure there are no shortages, including identifying alternatives if particular brands of medicine become unavailable and setting up triage centres to provide advice to GPs on what to do in the face of any shortages.

If not needed after Brexit the extra stock will still be used, she said, adding: “All we have done is brought forward some of the additional spend that we would be making anyway in order to ensure that we have got enough the stock just now.”

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Ms Freeman accused the UK Government of having a “brass neck” for criticising the Scottish Government’s Brexit preparations.

She said: “Our preparations are well in advance but it is the UK Government that has to ensure that there are adequate channels for the input of medicines and other consumables from the European Union.

“The Scottish Government doesn’t have the powers to do that.

“If we did, I feel much more assured about the overall preparation but in terms of what Scotland can do I am assured that we are doing everything we can to mitigate against the worst effects of leaving the European Union.”

BrexitWorkers load boxes with supplies (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Miller said NHS Scotland’s centralised procurement has provided demand data to enable Brexit planning.

He said “I think we are as prepared as we can be.

“Where we believe there’s any disruption to our supply chain, whether that’s bad weather, whether it’s Brexit or whether it’s fuel prices recently, we look at those items that are used the most often and adjust the stock levels accordingly.

“We tend to replenish our stock around 13 times a year – about once every four weeks and in preparation for this potential disruption to supply chain we’ve increased that by around four to eight weeks of some of those products that are used absolutely the most regularly.

“I can say with confidence today that whilst we have upped or stocks, those stocks will be used as part of our day-to-day business, regardless of whether Brexit happens this month or next year, regardless of whether it is a bad winter.”