New RPS project investigates medicines shortages

medicines on a shelf

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is leading a new project to examine the causes of the growing challenge of medicines shortages and help tackle their impact on patients and pharmacy practice.

A new advisory group, convened by RPS and chaired by RPS Fellow Dr Bruce Warner, will meet later this month and bring together experts from primary and secondary care, patients, the pharmaceutical industry, suppliers, regulators, government and the NHS.

The group will develop a report to provide expert thought leadership and support for the wider debate on UK policy. It will provide recommendations to address the factors behind medicine shortages and steps to take to reduce their impact on patient care. The group’s work will be informed by a literature review, stakeholder interviews, online RPS member events, and patient stories.

Professor Claire Anderson, RPS President, said:

“Helping patients get the medicines they need is at the very core of pharmacy practice.

“Medicine shortages have increased significantly over the last few years and our members continue to tell us of the toll this has on them and their patients.

“Patients can be bounced from pillar to post when a medicine is in short supply, and we’ve seen recent cases where they are really struggling to find an alternative. This is distressing for patients and frustrating for pharmacists.

“Medicines shortages are a shared challenge across the health system and we will bring together key stakeholders, undertake research and offer solutions to improve patients’ experience.”

Dr Bruce Warner, Chair of the Advisory Group, said:

“While I know first-hand the huge amount of work that happens behind the scenes in government and the NHS, patient groups are clear that medicines shortages continue to be a real concern.

“Medicines are a key part of NHS care and their supply chain is a critical part of the UK’s infrastructure.

“Medicines shortages may not be new, but there is now a growing recognition that greater collaboration is needed to help drive change.

“We look forward to bringing together experts in the coming months to examine what steps can begin to make a difference for patients.”

Sharon Brennan, Director of Policy and External Affairs at National Voices, said:

“Our members, over 200 health and social care charities, tell us that they are increasingly hearing from the people they advocate for regarding concerns around medicine shortages.

“Chasing prescriptions, trying to get a GP appointment to have an alternative medicine prescribed, or in many cases for support with their health condition when their medication runs out, places increasing burden and unnecessary anxiety on patients.

“We are hopeful this advisory group will consider practical, short-term solutions to the current problems patients are facing alongside longer-term solutions to prevent this issue from continually arising.

“Without this, we know patients will continue to live with the real worry that their health will worsen without access to the medications that are vital to their health.”

Demonstrating the real-world impact of medicine shortages, BBC's The One Show recently spoke with those struggling to get hold of their medicines, and RPS Director for England James Davies explained why medicine shortages can happen and how pharmacists can help:


Join our online workshops on Tuesday, 16 April and Thursday, 25 April to hear more about the project and help directly inform this work.

To get in touch about the project, email [email protected]

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