Part of The Pharmacist’s series of case studies on how stock shortages are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a London contractor explains the impact on their pharmacy
Amish Patel, owner of Hodgson Pharmacy, Longfield, Kent, director and aesthetics practitioner at Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic and board member of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
‘We have tried to find ways around the stock shortages. Thankfully, we’re in a unique situation. We’re very much a village pharmacy in a rural area. There’s our pharmacy, a LloydsPharmacy down the road and one GP surgery. The next pharmacy and GP surgery are a few miles away.
‘So, if there’s a stock shortage, we tell the GP surgery and they change everyone’s prescriptions. I’ve heard stories from cities whereby a GP surgery will say to patients simply to try another pharmacy first. But that’s not happening for us.
‘The shortages mean it’s a case of telling the surgery straight away what we can’t get and then they start changing people to something different, whether it’s a different drug or a different strength. At the end of the day, either the wholesaler has it or they don’t.
‘The days do become a little more stressful when you have to send people back to the doctor’s surgery. But for our staff, it’s just another day.’
A historic problem
‘Stock shortages have always been there. Yes, they’re here more now than they were in the past, but they were always an issue.
‘A few months ago, we had one of the biggest switches we’ve seen. One drug in particular was hard to get hold of. Different strengths were constantly going in and out of stock. Some people had to be moved to lower strengths, some higher.
‘But the worst bit was that once the drugs were back in stock, it was hard to switch the patients back over again to their original dose or drug. For example, if someone was on 5mg of a certain drug and there was a shortage of that dose, we’d prescribe 2.5mg and tell them to double up. But now there are no stock issues with it, and they’re still left on the new dosage and doubling up. It’s not ideal for compliance or budgets.
‘We’ve tried to highlight it to the GPs, but they’re so overstretched that it doesn’t happen quickly enough.’
Effect on patients
‘Patients have been very understanding. You do get a few who are frustrated. If it’s heart medication or diabetes medication then they’re often highly concerned. But equally, I just show them the wholesalers ordering screen and say it’s out of stock everywhere and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
‘They either need to wait a little while, or they need to go back to the doctor. We explain that there’s no point in us all getting angry, it’s just a case of talking to the doctors to figure it out.
‘Moving forward, manufacturers and wholesalers really need to work together to ensure the stock is there.’
The Pharmacist has put together a shortages toolkit with all the tools you need – including a patient information leaflet and a template email to local GPs informing them of the latest shortages and suggesting alternatives.