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How the stock shortages have affected me: ‘Our staff spend hours on the phone sourcing products’


By Beth Gault
Freelance journalist

10 Sep 2018

Part of The Pharmacist’s series of case studies on how stock shortages are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Sheffield pharmacy owner explains the impact on their pharmacy 

Garry Myers, managing director at Shires Pharmacies in Sheffield. He is also the regional representative for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) for the east Midlands and south Yorkshire. All views are his own and not those of PSNC.

 

‘For us, our problems around stock are not just about medicine shortages.

‘One of the biggest problems we have at the moment is the introduction of quotas by the wholesalers. One of the biggest bugbears the staff have is spending hours and hours on the phone and trying to source product.

‘We had a case recently with a particular type of insulin. We have a patient that regularly has ten bottles of this insulin, and according to the wholesaler our quota is set at four.

‘So we’re consistently undersupplying this patient. On one instance, we couldn’t get the insulin, and we had to borrow it from another pharmacy – even then we couldn’t provide all the insulin that the patient had on their prescription.

‘As for generic shortages, we’re having massive problems with latanoprost, which is currently a price concession line but we can’t buy it for the price it’s quoted.

‘So, for some price concessions we’re actually making a loss. We’re having to buy stuff without having our costs reimbursed by the Government.’

 

‘Pharmacies are having to turn patients away’

 

‘To my knowledge, we haven’t actually turned away any patients on that basis. But I have heard stories of other pharmacies turning patients away on the basis that they can’t get the product at the price the NHS is willing to pay.

‘What we have noticed is that we’ve ended up having patients pitching up for stuff that they’ve said they can’t get anywhere else.

‘In some instances, it’s not just about medicine shortages, it’s about the time involved as well.

‘It seems that some pharmacies are turning people away for prescriptions for things like hosiery items that are made to measure, hernia belts and things like that. Pharmacies are tending to turn patients away because they’re not prepared to spend the time dealing with the patients concerned.

‘So we’ve actually been on the receiving end of those patients who can’t get their prescriptions elsewhere. We seem to be doing more and more where either costs aren’t met or it’s quite time consuming to deal with the patients.’

 

‘We’ve worked hard and taken a pay cut’

 

‘We’ve worked really hard and taken a pay cut and cashed in my pension in order to not cut services, but I know that other pharmacies have just don’t have that luxury and obviously they’re looking at other ways and means of saving money and when you know something’s going to take you half an hour and the NHS is not going to cover the costs, why would you bother?

‘I have sympathy for pharmacies who just say they can’t do that.

‘If the Government wants community pharmacies to continue to supply medicines to the public, then they need to urgently invest in the network and make sure that all community pharmacists are properly resourced to be able to effectively weather the storms that are coming with Brexit and the falsified medicines directive (FMD).

‘If they want us to be able to keep patients away from A&E and general practice, we can’t do that if we run out of money. For all those reasons, health secretary Matt Hancock needs to honour his word and start investing more money in the sector.’


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