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pills bottleJune 15 2016

The ongoing national situation of medicines shortages has prompted MPs to raise their concerns with the pharmacy minister. Having surveyed community pharmacies and GPs, the parliamentary All Party Pharmacy Group is calling for more action to be taken to reduce the potential harm to patients.

Among community pharmacists, 48% reported medicines shortages may have or did require patients to receive “moderate medical treatment” in the past six months. Survey responses from GP practices found that 36% of cases where a medicine could not be prescribed led to moderate medical treatment for patients.

‘Moderate medical treatment’ is described as an incident requiring medical treatment where there was less than a three day absence for the patient and emotional distress was caused. However, “in cases where community pharmacies were unable to dispense their prescribed medicine, as many as 3% reported that this may have or did lead to the patient being hospitalised.”

The points have been raised in a letter from the APPG Chairman, Sir Kevin Barron MP. “Overall, it is clear from the survey that medicines shortages continue to occur. They cause inconvenience, stress and, on occasion, physical harm to patients. They cause disruption for health professionals and support staff, meaning that valuable NHS time is wasted on a regular and continuing basis,” he said.

The APPG and North of England Commissioning Support (NECS) conducted the survey in the North East of England and asked pharmacists both in community pharmacy and hospitals, along with GPs and clinical commissioning groups, about the effect of shortages.

Other figures from the survey include:

• 56% of community pharmacists surveyed reported a medicine out of stock on a prescription presented at their pharmacy was ‘almost certain to occur’ once a day over the last six months
• 36% said it was ‘likely to occur’ once a week
• 48% of community pharmacists reported spending between 21 and 50 hours a month dealing with medicines shortages, 16% were spending 51-75 hours and 5% were spending over 100 hours.
• 37% of GP practices reported that in the last six months a medicine prescribed for their patient was likely or almost certainly likely to be out of stock every day; and
• 43% of GPs said they were likely to encounter a medicine out of stock every week
• 42% of GP practices spend between 21 and 50 hours a month dealing with shortages; and 6% are spending between 51 and 75 hours a month.

While acknowledging that medicines shortages can have a number of causes including international supply problems, Sir Kevin said some may be impossible to prevent while others may not be. “Either way, good preparation and early warning would, in our view, help to minimise the impact.

“The survey asked for respondents’ views on the most helpful actions or solutions. Many felt that the best action would be for the Department of Health, NHS England and MHRA to work together to establish a system that accurately monitors medicines entering the supply chain, detects the shortage risks and helps supply chain participants alleviate the impact of shortages where they do occur.”

The APPG has asked to meet the pharmacy minister Alistair Burt along with representatives from the medicines regulator, the MHRA, to discuss the matter.

Links:

APPG announcement http://www.appg.org.uk/news.php

APPG letter to minister http://www.appg.org.uk/admin/resources/letter-to-the-rt-hon-alistair-burt-mp-6.pdf

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