More than three times as many serious shortage protocols (SSPs) were issued in 2022-24 than in 2020-22, according to analysis by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

And in a three-day period last month, the same number of SSPs were issued as those issued during the whole of 2020.

The NPA warned that shortages were leading to pharmacists having to increasingly turn patients needing vital medication away.

And it urged the main political parties to commit to tackling the issue.

In the last two years, 50 SSPs were issued, compared to just 15 between 2019-21, the NPA said.

And four SSPs were issued in a three-day period in May 2024, the same number that had been issued for the whole of 2020.

Paul Rees, NPA chief executive, said the acute shortages for which SSPs were issued were ‘just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the challenges facing pharmacies and their patients’.

‘Pharmacists are spending hours a day hunting down stock and are often forced to turn patients away due to being unable to order in vital medication,’ he added.

And he said the sector’s current funding crisis was ‘a key issue in driving these appalling shortages’.

‘We need these shortages tackled as a matter of urgency and deliver a new funding deal that properly funds pharmacy to pay for the medicines our patients need.’

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper told The Pharmacist that the party would 'review the pharmacy funding model to make it fairer and more sustainable, and fix broken supply chains to end the cycle of medicine shortages that is dangerous and anxiety-inducing for patients and exhausting and time-consuming for pharmacists.'

Analysis conducted by The Pharmacist last year found that the average annual number of medicine recalls or notifications since 2019 was around double that of the previous four years.

Pharmacy bodies told The Pharmacist at the time that responding to recalls and notifications was putting increasing workload and pressure on pharmacy teams, with the Independent Pharmacies Association calling for an inquiry into the cause of the issue.