Update on radioisotope imports

Friday 25 October 2019

Over the summer, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) worked closely with suppliers to map radioisotope imports and ensure these products could be flown into the UK in the run-up to Brexit. 

DSCH has confirmed to that as of this week (week commencing 21st October) all imported radioisotopes destined for UK hospitals should be entering the UK by air.  

The Department has been running operational testing at East Midlands Airport to ensure smooth logistics as radioisotopes move from plane to lorry transport, and officials have assured us these tests have been completed successfully. They have also assured us that suppliers have catered for the need for more transport driver capacity coming out of the airport. 

It is reassuring that Government has recently been working closely and successfully with suppliers to implement contingency operations in the run-up to Brexit. 

Supplier representatives should be in ongoing communication with their hospital and radiopharmacy clients as events move forward, and we urge any clinicians with concerns over specific products and shipments to contact their providers. 

The RCR, British Nuclear Medicine Society and the UK Radiopharmacy Group have updated our joint practical guidance for clinicians in case of distrupted supply, and leads from the three organisations will be monitoring the situation over coming weeks.    

Additional costs linked to airfreighting/Brexit

Through industry intelligence we have been informed costs to radiopharmacies could potentially rise by up to 30 per cent as suppliers’ overheads have increased as they put contingency transport and supply measures in place. We will be monitoring the situation, and the BNMS is surveying radiopharmacy staff to gauge any issues with costs and delays.   

As this is another financial burden for our NHS, we hope DHSC and the NHS will again consider adjusted tariff reimbursement as a result of increased costs directly related to Brexit.

Express freight testing 

Government has announced it has secured express freight capacity to be used in case of an emergency, if there is an unexpected delay to a scheduled radioisotope airfreight shipment.

We are grateful for the additional contingency, and have been informed that express route testing is now ongoing.

Longer-term concerns

We are aware one supplier has had to ‘front-load’ molybdenum generators leaving EU reactors with an additional one or two days’ worth of radioisotope activity, to safeguard against delays and scheduling changes as part of the Brexit contingency routing. This leads to increased generator costs for hospitals, as well as wastage of a product with a precarious global supply chain. 

If extra loading for UK import continues beyond the short-term, the wider, long-term availability of molybdenum must be considered by Government and industry.