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The law must change to improve medicine shortages

Secretary of State must act

We've joined together with the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and patient group National Voices to call on Matt Hancock MP to amend medicines legislation and enable all pharmacists to alter prescriptions to minimise the impact of medicine shortages on patient care. 

The letter asks for pharmacists to be able to provide a different quantity, strength, formulation or generic version of the same medicine on a prescription, if it is in short supply.  It also calls on the Government to work with stakeholders to implement the changes ahead of the end of the UK transition from the EU at the end of this year.

At present, community pharmacists are legally obliged to contact prescribers, or refer patients back to prescribers, to amend prescriptions for minor adjustments such as supplying two packets of 20mg tablets if the 40mg version packet prescribed is out of stock. Community colleagues in Scotland can already make these changes, as can all hospital pharmacists.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Sandra Gidley said: “We urgently need this change ahead of the triple whammy of a second wave of coronavirus, the flu season and a potential no-deal Brexit, all of which would again place heavy demands on the medicines supply chain and primary care services.  Pharmacists are experts in medicines and need greater flexibility under the law to make simple changes to prescriptions that help patients get the medicines they need when they need them. It makes no sense to have to turn patients away without their medicine when the answer could literally be sitting on the shelf.”

Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Martin Marshall said: “It can be frustrating for GPs, pharmacists and patients when prescriptions can’t be dispensed due to shortages – and that minor adjustments to prescriptions which could be dispensed can’t be made by an experienced pharmacist without being reviewed by a GP. Not only does this step increase GP workload, but often it slows down patient access to medication. Pharmacists are highly skilled in their area of expertise – medicines - so trusting them to make appropriate and sensible decisions regarding medicines, depending on supplies, will in turn allow GPs to focus on patients who need our care the most.”

Read the letter to Matt Hancock.

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