GP and community pharmacists have shared steps of how they can tackle the antibiotics shortages, including working together and sharing information.

This comes as many community pharmacists reported struggles getting get hold of antibiotics from suppliers, saying that supply is ‘patchy’ and varies across the country and day to day, although the Government has denied antibiotics shortages.

Pharmacist and England chair of the RPS, Thorrun Govind, told The Pharmacist that community pharmacists and practice pharmacists could work together to support patients, for instance by sharing information about which formulations were in stock where, moving medicines between branches and recommending alternative prescriptions or formulations.

Community pharmacists should make sure that antibiotics prescribing was appropriate, for instance by checking the date on the prescription and asking the patient what it was for, she also said.

Ms Govind said that while it was ‘frustrating’ to have to go back to the prescriber to amend a prescription, there were ‘practical things that we can all do to support each other’, especially amid a particularly busy period for pharmacies.

She told Sky News this morning that pharmacists are ‘well versed in coming up with options for patients, liaising with prescribers, and really making sure that the patient gets the right drug at the right time’, as they had done during HRT shortages.

GP pharmacist Siddiqur Rahman said that based on feedback from community pharmacists, his practice had begun offering paper prescriptions that patients could use wherever antibiotics were in stock, rather than issuing an electronic prescription to a nominated pharmacy.

However, he also said that as a pharmacist based in general practice, his GP colleagues have been asking him for updates about the supply situation in community pharmacy, but without any updates from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), healthcare teams were ‘left in limbo’.

He added that there was extra concern about the situation because Strep A is particularly dangerous for children if untreated, which might cause GPs to prescribe antibiotics more regularly.

Ade Williams, a community pharmacist in Bristol, said that while community pharmacies and GP practices could work together to amend prescriptions when necessary, a longer-term solution would be to give 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.

Some community pharmacists have expressed concerns about whether they might be asked to fulfil orders for proactive prescriptions which GPs may issue to large groups of children.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, BMA England GP committee acting chair, said: ‘While the Government insists there are sufficient supplies of antibiotics nationally, this will be of little comfort to pharmacists, GPs and patients who are experiencing shortages locally’.

He also argued that ‘those responsible for supply chains must double down on efforts to ensure there are enough medicines to meet demand.’

Clear and effective public health messaging on Strep A was ‘crucial’ to ‘ensure that patients and parents and guardians know where to go if they do need help and to reassure the vast majority of people who will not go on to become seriously unwell,’ Dr Sharrock added.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that it was not aware of any supply issues of amoxicillin, despite pharmacists sharing screenshots on Twitter showing where it was out of stock.

PSNC said that it was awaiting an update from the DHSC Supply Team regarding the wider situation. ‘We rely on reports from pharmacies for our information but don’t have the same access to market information that the Department do’, its spokesperson added.

Community pharmacists have been reporting rising prices and difficulties obtaining medicines for several months, last month saying that the issue was now impacting ‘bread and butter lines’.

GP practice pharmacist Graham Stretch said that there was now ‘a big challenge in antibiotic availability and a huge demand’, adding that ‘we are all bracing for the price hikes and the nervous waits for price concessions thereafter’.