Update on Serious Shortage Protocols

New legislation comes into force

Legislation came into force today (1 July) on Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs), clarifying how they will work in practice. The legislation enables Ministers, in the event of a medicine being in serious shortage, to issue protocols to allow community pharmacies to dispense against a specific protocol instead of a prescription without going back to the prescriber first.

RPS President Ash Soni said:

“A Serious Shortage Protocol would aim to speed up patient access to appropriate treatment in the event of a medicine being in serious shortage. This would aim to reduce the need for patients to go back to their GP to get a different prescription.

“Each protocol would only be issued in specific circumstances, setting out what action can be taken by the pharmacist, for which patients and during which period. Where a substitution might not be appropriate, or where a patient doesn’t agree to a change, they would be referred back to the prescriber. There needs to be really clear communication with the patient’s GP about these decisions.”

Previous regulations, which came into force on 9 February 2019, amended the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to enable Ministers to issue Serious Shortage Protocols for prescription-only medicines (POMs). These latest Regulations today will enable a Minister to issue an SSP for any drug or appliance that may be dispensed.

The Government has stated that operational guidance is under preparation and the intention is that it will be made available on the NHS Business Services Authority’s (NHS BSA) website before or alongside the first SSP is issued.  The SSPs will also be available on the NHS BSA’s website. The RPS is keen to support the development and implementation of guidance for pharmacists.

We are continuing to speak to Government, the NHS, pharmacy colleagues and other stakeholders about medicines shortages and how frontline pharmacists can support patients.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society met with the Department of Health and Social Care in November to discuss potential implications of Brexit for patients, pharmacists and the wider NHS. More about that here.


Further reading

PSNC briefing on SSPs for community pharmacy contractors

Q&A on Brexit


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