The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) has joined with a group of charities to call for a complete review of the medicine supply chain.

AIMp, along with Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Society, Parkinson’s UK and SUDEP Action, has warned the government that unless there is ‘greater openness’ with drug manufacturers, supply chain issues and medicine shortages will put people’s health at risk.

According to AIMp, community pharmacists are spending two hours every day trying to track down potentially life-saving medications for patients.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMp, described the medicine supply chain as being ‘broken at every level’.

She added: ‘The system is overly complex and shrouded in secrecy – what we need is openness and transparency.’

A survey by the group of charities found that 70% of respondents had difficulties in obtaining medication in the past year. The same survey, which had almost 1,500 responses, found 22% had experienced problems in the last month.

More than half (55%) needed to visit multiple pharmacies before securing their medication, and two-thirds were only given a fraction of their prescription.

Rebekah Smith, deputy chief executive of Epilepsy Action, commented: ‘The journey to finding the right medication is often a tough one for people with epilepsy.

‘When they do find it, they should not have to fear the security it gives being taken away by factors totally out of their control.’

Dr Hannbeck added: ‘Pharmacists are in the same position as patients – we are at the end of the supply chain but are the last people to find out about medication shortages.

‘Consequently, we are unable to plan in advance and support the people who rely on us for their medications.’

AIMp and the charities are calling for an urgent meeting with Victoria Atkins, health and social care secretary.

In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, said: ‘We have taken swift action with NHS England and other stakeholders to improve the supply of epilepsy medications and access to some has already improved while we expect supplies of others to improve in the coming months.

‘We have issued guidance to health professionals on how to support patients while supply is disrupted.’