A new UK Government report has found that up to £1.6bn of medical equipment is imported to be sterilised in Britain every year, which could leave the country vulnerable to contamination.
It found that, in some cases, medical instruments such as CT scans and MRI scanners have been manufactured in the UK for more than 30 years, while the majority of other medical instruments were imported from other European countries such as Sweden and Germany.
“The report, Medical equipment imported into the UK from EU member states, reveals that a significant proportion of medical instruments are imported from EU Member States and the UK has not been the best place to produce medical equipment in the past,” said the report’s author, Dr Caroline Brown.
The report said it was “unacceptable” that medical equipment used for sterilisation in the NHS was not produced in the country of its origin.
Dr Brown, who is the former director of the Centre for Biotechnology and Biological Sciences at King’s College London, said: “We need to think about where medical equipment comes from and why it is used.”
For example, why is it that the majority are made in China and India?””
It is an issue of supply chain, it is not just a question of whether medical equipment has been manufactured here, it’s a question about where the medical equipment originated from,” she said.
British medical equipment imported from outside the EU and the EU’s borders is often produced in China, India and other Asian countries.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) said: “We are concerned that the report does not properly address the importation of medical machinery from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).”
We will be raising this with the Government and will continue to engage with the UK’s manufacturers to support the industry’s efforts to continue manufacturing equipment in our domestic supply chain.”
The DExEU said it would review its importation policy in 2020, and was working with industry partners to ensure the country is “not at risk of importing medical equipment into the country”.
But Dr Brown said it is important to remember that medical devices imported into Britain from the EU were not “purely medical” in nature.
She said:”The majority of medical devices manufactured in Britain come from the US, and are manufactured under a strict export control regime that limits their movement within the UK.”
Dr Green said: “”Medical equipment is not a purely medical item and the import of medical machines does not mean that they are unsafe.
If you look at the medical devices that are being imported into this country and the manufacturers that manufacture them, they are all making them to meet a very specific medical need.
We have a duty to ensure that medical device exports are in compliance with international law.” “
[Medical equipment] can be made in India and China and that is a very different industry, they’re not manufactured in this country,” she added.
“We have a duty to ensure that medical device exports are in compliance with international law.”
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