Eight Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) issued for Pen-V antibiotics (Phenoxymethylpenicillin) have been extended for another month.

The SSPs were originally issued in December, when demand increased for antibiotics amid concerns around Strep A infections in children.

They were extended until the end of February and have now been extended until the end of March, despite recent figures from the UKHSA that suggest Strep A rates may be starting to decline.

The SSP extension also comes after guidance which told GPs to have a ‘low threshold’ for prescribing antibiotics for potential strep A infections was retired on 15 February.

Seven of the eight SSPs are for Phenoxymethylpenicillin oral solutions in 125mg/5ml and 250mg/5ml doses and sugar free and non-sugar-free versions, and one is for Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg tablets.

The SSPs allow pharmacists to substitute different antibiotics in place of Pen-V.

But some pharmacists, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), have called for a change in the law that would allow pharmacists to make minor amendments to prescriptions to supply patients with medicines, without the need for a SSP.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has also said that it was 'pressing DHSC to think broadly about what other measures could help to manage the current situation', including 'the introduction of greater flexibilities' such as 'allowing pharmacists more professional discretion to amend prescriptions separate to SSPs'.

SSPs were also extended for Sandrena (estradiol) sachets, restricting patients to three months’ supply of the estradiol gel or allowing pharmacists to substitute with estradiol patches.

Estradiol patch Estradot 100mcg patches are also under an SSP until 17 March.

Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), described HRT and antibiotics as ‘the most visible examples of a wider problem with medicines supply which needs to be addressed’ when the NPA called for the launch of a medicines supply taskforce in December.