The government has awarded UPS, DFDS and Biocair contracts for the express freight service to deliver medicines and medical products within 24 to 48 hours in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The service is designed to ensure that vital medicines and medical products can be transported from the location they are produced to the point they are needed within two days, to meet any urgent needs that might arise.

It essentially provides access to specialised express logistics networks “that can move the wide range of medicines, devices and products required for the delivery of safe, high-quality care for patients across the UK,” according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

As such, the NHS will have access to next-day delivery on small consignments, including temperature-controlled or hazardous products, 48-hour delivery for larger loads, and specialist services, including hand-delivered courier services if needed.

The move is designed to support measures already announced by the government to support continuous medicines supply if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, including building buffer stocks of medicines and medical products and procuring additional warehouse capacity.

The DHSC said it has also increased its capacity to manage any potential disruption to supply that might arise by setting up a dedicated National Supply Disruption Response unit to support the health and social care sector.

“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,” said Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock.

“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,” added Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).