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Hospital makes a profit trading NHS drugs in Europe

So last week health minister Mike O'Brien, tells us that "unscrupulous" speculators are putting patients' health at risk by selling drugs intended for UK patients for higher prices abroad. Must be evil capitalists.

And one of those unscrupulous speculators turns out to be..........

The Royal Surrey County hospital bought NHS drugs cheap to sell at a profit in Europe, in a move defended as 'entrepreneurial', but deemed 'unethical' by health experts

The Royal Surrey County hospital foundation trust had been trading in the pharmaceutical export market by buying up drugs at the cheap NHS price and selling them to a wholesaler for export. The low value of the pound meant they could be sold at a profit. By December — the month it was awarded foundation trust status — the hospital had earned £4.6m in revenue over 10 months and made £300,000 profit on the sales.

The Royal Surrey's finance director Paul Biddle told the Health Service Journal, the trade magazine which broke the story, that "yes, we did see this as an opportunity to make a margin".

Last week, health minister Mike O'Brien, attacked "unscrupulous" speculators who are putting patients' health at risk by selling drugs intended for UK patients for higher prices abroad. O'Brien, who has called an emergency summit to deal with the growing problem, had in mind wholesalers and pharmacists, not hospitals when he drew attention to the sales.

However the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency's principle pharmacist Howard Stokoe had last summer warned that the spread of export trading to hospitals was a "serious concern" due to the relatively small volumes of drugs supplied.

Mr Stokoe wrote to hospital pharmacists saying: "Quite simply, if product is diverted in this way it is likely to have an immediate and dramatic impact on the availability of product to treat UK patients. Not only would this compromise patient care, it would also be damaging for the reputations of any NHS trusts involved in this practice."


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