Pharmacists could be given powers to dispense alternatives to GP prescriptions in the event of serious medicine shortages, it has been revealed.

In a leaked document sent to The Times, the Government said that it is consulting on implementing ‘a strict protocol’ to allow community pharmacists to ‘provide an appropriate alternative, should there be a shortage of certain types of medicines’ in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Pharmacy bodies, including the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) have previously warned that shortages of vital medicines could have ‘life-threatening consequences’ for patients.


‘Sensible approach’


The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said today (7 December) that this ‘sensible approach should reduce the time taken for alternatives to be provided to patients’.

A DHSC spokesperson told The Pharmacist: ‘In the unlikely event of a shortage of any medicine it’s vital that patients continue to receive the high level of treatment they expect.

‘We’re consulting on the introduction of a strict protocol, which would be developed in collaboration with doctors, to allow our highly-trained pharmacists to provide an appropriate alternative should there be a shortage of certain types of medicines.

‘The deal secured by the Prime Minister delivers for our NHS and we continue to urge Parliament to back it. As a responsible Government, we’re planning for all eventualities.’


‘Serious shortage protocol’


Under the Government’s proposals, new regulations could be introduced as part of the Human Medicines Regulation 2012. This would enable ministers to issue a ‘serious shortage protocol’ in the event of extreme shortages.

According to the DHSC, the protocol would see pharmacists and other dispensers, supplying products in line with directives rather than prescriptions without the need for contacting the patient’s GP.

However, pharmacists would be limited to four dispensing scenarios, which include supplying reduced quantity, an alternative dosage form, a therapeutic equivalent and a generic alternative based on their professional judgment and the patient’s needs.

More to follow…