Community pharmacists must be kept better informed about medicine shortages, with greater transparency required from supply chains, the chief executive of the Independent Pharmacies Association (IPA) has urged.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck also said the fact that pharmacists are unable to make minor amendments in the case of medicines shortages ‘has to change’.

The comments came as part of a panel focused on benchmarking progress on community pharmacy service expansion at the Public Policy Projects in Birmingham today.

Panel chair David Tamby Rajah, senior pharmacy consultant, highlighted that while the sector is experiencing positive new developments  such as Pharmacy First, it is also facing ‘serious system challenges’ including workforce, IT, remuneration and medicine shortages.

And he suggested that GPs needed to have more of an understanding of the impact of drug shortages on community pharmacy.

Meanwhile, Dr Hannbeck suggested that the government needed to bring the supply chain together and find a solution to medicine shortages.

‘We can’t continue like this,’ she said.

She called for community pharmacists to ‘be kept better in the loop’, suggesting that understanding challenges from the manufacturing perspective could be helpful.

Dr Hannbeck also said that pharmacists not being able to amend a prescription or supply an alternative in the case of shortages ‘has to change’.

‘It’s beyond belief’ that pharmacists are not currently able to do this, she added.

A report published today by Community Pharmacy England (CPE) found that medicine supply issues were affecting 72% of pharmacy teams ‘multiple times a day’, while 60% said GP practices had to be contacted about supply issues on a daily basis.

And the negotiator called for pharmacists to be allowed to make minor adjustments to prescriptions.

Last month, health secretary Victoria Atkins said that the DHSC had ‘not made a decision’ on whether it would allow pharmacists to supply alternative medicines in the case of a shortage, while the pharmacy regulator recently said it has met with the DHSC to discuss the issue.