The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for a change in the law that would allow pharmacists to make minor amendments to prescriptions to supply patients with medicines, without the need for a serious shortage protocol (SSP).

Yesterday three SSPs were issued for penicillin solution, allowing pharmacists to substitute other formulations of the medicine where necessary amid difficulties getting hold of antibiotics and increased prescribing rates among children showing signs of Strep A infection.

The SSPs allow pharmacists to substitute an equivalent prescription where the prescribed solution is not available, removing the need for pharmacists to return to the prescriber and ask them to amend the prescription.

While the RPS welcomed the SSP ‘as a way of addressing supply of penicillin’, RPS England Chair Thorrun Govind said in a statement that it was a ‘short term measure’ which pharmacists found ‘bureaucratic and inflexible’.

She called for a change in the law ‘to allow pharmacists to make minor amendments to a prescription without any protocol being needed.’

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) also said that it was 'pressing DHSC to think broadly about what other measures could help to manage the current situation', including 'the introduction of greater flexibilities' such as 'allowing pharmacists more professional discretion to amend prescriptions separate to SSPs'.

Ms Govind said that the current process of asking the prescriber to change the prescription ‘causes unnecessary workload for GPs and delays for patients’.

She also suggested that the problem could be ‘future-proofed’ to some degree by enabling all pharmacists across the UK to change prescriptions and supply a different quantity, strength or formulation (for example, by changing capsules to tablets).

Ms Govind explained: ’Such substitutions have been standard routine practice for pharmacists in hospitals for years and are already used in Scotland. Patients in England and Wales should be able to benefit in the same way.

‘Patients need timely access to medicines and pharmacists want to be better able to help people manage the supply of their medicines with consistency across the UK. We call on the Government to resolve this issue as soon as possible,’ she added.

Ms Govind also stressed that pharmacists would not be involved in changing treatments, as these proposed amends would involve therapeutic substitution.

She also told LBC today that it was ‘frustrating that we've had to wait almost a week of pharmacists saying there are issues for these serious shortage protocols to be issued.’

Amending prescriptions was ‘a temporary measure, saying that pharmacists ‘still need to have the supply of that stock in’, she added to LBC.

Last week, Ms Govind told The Pharmacist that the current process was ‘frustrating’ while community pharmacist Ade Williams called for a longer-term solution of giving pharmacists access to clinical notes and the power to change a prescription, within their area of competence, to ensure that a patient could access medicines that were in stock.

The NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service (SPS) also last week issued guidance for using solid oral dosage form antibiotics in children, such as crushing tablets or dispersing the contents of capsules in food or liquid.