An "end-to-end" courier service that will ensure there is no break in the medicine supply chain in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been announced by the government.
The Express Freight Service will have the capacity to deliver medicines and medical products within 24 to 48 hours.
It will be able to collect and deliver any urgent supplies from the manufacturer or source to the destination without any third-party involvement.
Three companies – UPS, DFDS and Biocair – have been awarded the £25m contract.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: This dedicated delivery service will get urgent supplies and short shelf-life medicines, like radioisotopes for cancer treatments, rapidly into the country, including by plane where necessary.
It is just one element of our detailed and robust preparations for Brexit, which includes stockpiling and additional ferry capacity.
We now have detailed plans in place for every medicine, including those with short shelf-lives, to help ensure that the supply of medicines and medical products are uninterrupted through Brexit.
There are fears a no-deal Brexit would hit medicine supplies and severely compromise patient care.
But it is hoped this express service will mean the NHS has access to next-day delivery on small consignments, including temperature-controlled or hazardous products, as well as 48-hour delivery for larger loads and access to specialist services, including hand-delivered courier services, if needed.
The contract with the courier companies is said to contain provisions in the event of a Brexit delay and this service is independent of the additional ferry capacity announced by the government recently.
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: Industry has been doing everything in its power to make sure people get the medicines they need.
Whilst there are many things beyond their control, this is an important contingency plan that will help our members continue their preparations – alongside the stockpiles they have already built and alternative freight routes they have secured.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it has also increased its capacity to manage any potential disruption to supply by setting up a dedicated National Supply Disruption Response unit to support the health and social care sector.
Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of the Association of British HealthTech Industries, said: This announcement, along with the existing package of support for HealthTech companies, is testament to the hard and diligent work carried out by the department to ensure that our sector, and the patients we serve, are as well prepared as we can be to deal with the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
The new contingency service will support existing plans already in place such as stockpiling medicines and medical products; changing regulatory requirements so that companies can continue to sell their products in the UK if the country leaves the EU without a deal; and increasing warehouse capacity.
Patients have been assured that they do need to take any special action after Brexit because the NHS, health department and medical companies are prepared for Brexit and this is an additional measure to ensure there is no disruption to the supply of medicines.