The Government must ensure contingency planning is in place to mitigate the impact of any worsening of stock shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic or a potential ‘second wave’, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

In its submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus, the RPS said that shortages have continued to be an issue during the pandemic, with pharmacists expressing concerns over ‘the potential longer-term impact on medicines manufacturing’.

It urged the Government to allow pharmacists to continue to be able to take appropriate steps to minimise the impact of shortages on patient care.

This should include medicines legislation being amended ‘to allow pharmacists to use their professional judgement to make minor amendments to prescriptions in the event of a medicine being out of stock,’ the RPS said.

The pharmacy body added that its members find the Serious Shortage Protocols ‘overly burdensome’ and simply allowing pharmacists to make small amendments themselves could reduce the workload of GPs and save patients having to go back to their prescribers.

As part of it’s contingency plan, the body said the Government should also take into account flexible plans for returning, re-using and storage of medicines, including those used for critical and end of life care and substance misuse, and the possibility that the supply of these drugs will become ‘increasingly difficult’.

Virtual consultations

The RPS also highlighted some future policy principles for how the profession can further support patients, including through virtual consultations.

The submission said: ‘This would need to be carefully considered, but as we look ahead to a ‘new normal’ in the health service, ensuring people can continue to access expert advice and support on their medicines will be fundamental to patient safety and reducing avoidable hospital admissions.

‘Virtual consultations will need investment in IT and training, but these also need to be right for patients and not widen health inequalities.’

Last month, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that unless there is a ‘compelling clinical reason’ to see a patient face to face, all GP consultations should be carried out remotely going forward.

The APPG inquiry has been set up to ensure lessons are learned from the UK’s handling of the outbreak.