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GPs vote in favour of pharmacists independently substituting short drugs

By Isabel Shaw

27 Nov 2019

GP leaders in England have voted to allow pharmacists to independently identify and dispense appropriately equivalent medications during drug shortages, without the need to consult GPs.

Following a successful vote at the English Local Medical Committees (LMCs) conference on Friday, the BMA GPs committee will now discuss how the law can be changed to make this a reality.

Shropshire LMC proposed the motion due to an increased GP workload – a byproduct of national drug shortages, they said.

Their was that ‘PCN and CCG pharmacists [should] be made responsible for identifying suitable alternatives, although GPs would still carry clinical responsibility for prescriptions’.

Dr Ray McMurry, who spoke on behalf of Shropshire and Telford LMC, told the conference that the process of finding alternative drugs for patients is taking up ‘time [we GPs] do not have’.


‘Can we really not trust our professional community pharmacy colleagues?’


He continued: ‘No one is really clear on why medicine shortages are worsening in the UK but one thing is clear, it is causing suffering for our patients and adding to our already full workload.’

‘Can we really not trust our professional community pharmacy colleagues enough to safely find an appropriate medicine alternative without them having to send patients back to [GPs]?’

He made reference to the serious shortage protocols (SSPs), which came into force in July, allowing pharmacists to dispense the equivalent of a short medicine without consulting the patient’s GPs. Although they do allow community pharmacists to dispense alternative medicines, this is only to a ‘very limited’ extent and within the boundaries of each individual protocol.

Barnet LMC spoke in favour of the Shropshire’s motion, encouraging delegates to vote in favour of all five sections, adding that this in an issue that, ‘affects all of us’.

Dr Tom Yerburgh, from Gloucester LMC, however, spoke against the motion. He said: ‘[Pharmacists] are not prescribers, when it comes to these shortages there is a huge list of problems that come from swapping this with that… interactions and allergies, it’s all incredibly complex.’

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