The first ever serious shortage protocols (SSPs), issued yesterday (3 October), will empower pharmacists during a period of ‘frustrating’ stock shortages, pharmacy bodies have said.

The Government issued the SSPs, which allow community pharmacists in England to provide appropriate alternatives to patients without having to go back to the patient’s GP for an updated script, to combat shortages of the antidepressant fluoxetine.

Representatives for the sector welcomed the move, which they said would allow pharmacists to help patients access their medicines in spite of supply issues.


PSNC: ‘More freedom’

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said the measures would enable patients to access their medicines ‘more quickly than might otherwise have been possible’.

PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said: ‘While we recognise that implementing [the] SSPs will require a new way of working for pharmacies, we see this as a positive step in giving the sector more freedom to make minor changes to the treatment provided without needing to await the individual doctor’s approval.’


RPS: Saving pharmacists time

The new SSPs will ‘enable and empower’ community pharmacists to support continued patient access to ‘appropriate medicines’, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said.

Chair of the RPS in England Claire Anderson said: ‘Pharmacists are experts in medicines and work hard every day dealing with medicines shortages. This will support patients’ health, reduce time spent going back to their GP for a new prescription, and save pharmacists time spent finding alternative suppliers.’

She added that the Government and NHS will need to provide more information to educate health professionals and the public on how the protocols work as more SSPs are issued.


NPA: Using pharmacists’ judgement

A spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said: ‘Pharmacists and pharmacy teams work extremely hard to get their patients the medicines they need in a timely fashion.

‘We welcome the serious shortage protocols for fluoxetine, as it allows pharmacists to use their professional judgement to help patients get their antidepressant medicines promptly, without the need to wait for a new prescription from a GP.’

They also welcomed export restrictions – announced yesterday – put in place for all hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products as well as adrenaline auto-injectors and hepatitis B vaccines due to ‘stubborn’ and ‘life threatening’ shortages.


AIMp: Supply issues ‘frustrating’

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said: ‘There have been several supply issues in regards to fluoxetine, which has been very frustrating for pharmacists and their patients.

‘Having the SSPs in place will allow pharmacists to act in the best interest of their patients and provide them with their medicines in a timely manner.’

A spokesperson added that the AIMp has been ‘working closely’ with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and colleagues in the sector to ‘highlight’ supply issues that contractors are facing.


CCA: Supporting GP colleagues

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), said: ‘We have been working closely with the DHSC over last twelve months to work through the practicalities of applying serious shortage protocols.

‘Through the application of these, and any future SSPs, community pharmacists will be able to support their GP colleagues by preventing the need for large numbers of prescriptions to be re-written, as would otherwise be the case.’