Community pharmacists should be able to dispense substitutes for out-of-stock hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products without having to contact the prescriber, the RPS has said.
‘At the moment pharmacists cannot amend prescriptions for HRT, so have to refer women back to their GPs when a medicine is not available,’ Claire Anderson, the president of the RPS, said.
‘Enabling pharmacists to do so will save time for patients, pharmacists and doctors, as well as lessening the anxiety for women waiting for medicines,’ she added.
The proposed powers would enable pharmacists to substitute HRT for different quantity, strength, formulation or generic version of the same medicine on a prescription. This goes further than serious shortage protocols, which allow pharmacists to prescribe alternative quantities of medicines.
There have been acute shortages of some HRT products reported across the UK, with one MP claiming pharmacies in her constituency had ‘completely run out’ of the product.
On Sunday, the health secretary Sajid Javid announced plans to appoint an HRT tsar to tackle the shortages.
The UK shortage of oestrogen gel has previously been attributed to an increase in media coverage of menopause and the circulation of social media posts.
Ms Anderson welcomed Mr Javid’s plan to recruit an HRT tsar, but said the appointment ‘must be part of a wider government strategy to ensure patient access to medicines.
‘Pharmacists spend many hours dealing with medicines shortages when we’d rather be talking to patients about their care,’ she said.
She suggested a solution which would involve enabling pharmacists to make minor changes to a prescription when something is out of stock. ‘This is faster for patients and more efficient for the NHS,’ she explained.
‘Difficulties in accessing HRT unfairly impacts women, affects their mental health and worsens health inequalities – this is an area that not only impacts our patients but also the health and care workforce.’
In November, the Government announced it would work with NHS England to look at implementing longer prescribing cycles, in line with NICE guidelines, to reduce the need to pay frequent prescription charges.