Pharmacy leaders and patient representatives have taken their concerns about the impact of medicines supply issues – including shortages and rising costs – to MPs in a special event held on Monday.
During the meeting, MPs, including the former home secretary Priti Patel and former chief whip Wendy Morton, were told of the ongoing concerns about medicines supply and the disruption it is causing.
The event was hosted by MP Alex Cunningham in collaboration with Community Pharmacy England (CPE).
While setting out the changes CPE believes are required, the negotiator called for: reform of Serious Shortage Protocols; allowing generic substitution; an overhaul of the concessions system; and a strategic government review of medicine supply and pricing with a focus on improving the functioning of the supply chain rather than solely on reducing prices and margins.
Several MPs and researchers were in attendance, including Conservative MPs Jonathan Gullis, Peter Aldous, Simon Jupp and Chris Green, as well as Labour MPs Mike Amesbury, Kate Osborne and Justin Madders.
And this group of MPs heard from pharmacy owners and spokespeople from CPE, the Nuffield Trust, Healthwatch England and the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) about their concerns.
CPE also said that it was working with the HDA and others to agree on a set of principles to help pharmacies managing supply issues.
🙏 Thank you to all MPs and staff who attended today's drop-in event on medicines supply issues.
Medicines supply remains a critical issue for community pharmacies with disruption causing problems both accessing medicines and procuring them cost effectively... 👇 pic.twitter.com/d9PIaPhbVd
— Community Pharmacy England: Policy (@PharmacyEngland) July 10, 2023
Prior to the event, CPE had invited contractors to tag their MP in a post on Twitter to encourage them to attend the event.
And after the event, Alex Cunningham MP, who collaborated with CPE to host the event, commented in a social media post that his constituents had been in touch about shortages ‘and this was a great opportunity to hear from the frontline about the work being done to address these and support patients’.
It was a pleasure to host @ComPharmEngland's Parliamentary event on medicine supply shortages.
Constituents have been in touch about shortages and this was a great opportunity to hear from the frontline about the work being done to address these and support patients. pic.twitter.com/Zr56ZosbzE
— Alex Cunningham MP (@ACunninghamMP) July 10, 2023
CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that instability in the medicines market was ‘fast becoming the most critical issue facing community pharmacy owners’.
She added: ‘Pharmacy teams are going above and beyond on a daily basis to mitigate these issues for their patients, and we are clear that pharmacy owners cannot continue to manage this issue on behalf of government and to take huge financial risks as they do so.
‘We have set out a number of possible solutions to the issues but perhaps most fundamental is the need for a strategic review of medicines supply.’
Ms Morrison added: ‘Despite the billions of pounds in savings that pharmacy procurement brings, the margin that pharmacies are allowed to earn on medicines purchases has been capped at the same level for many years: this is yet another pressures at a time when pharmacy businesses are fighting for survival.
‘We want to see a more balanced benefit-sharing approach and to a shift in focus away from the drive to depress prices and margins.’
And Anil Sharma, an independent community pharmacy owner and CPE regional representative for the East of England region, said that ‘like all pharmacy businesses owners’ he was ‘struggling to juggle medicines supply and pricing on a daily basis’.
He added: ‘As well as issues with obtaining some medicines, pricing is a constant worry – wondering whether we are going to be able to pay our wholesalers bills at the end of the month – and that’s all on top of managing the inevitable and understandable patient frustration and concern.’
And he said that it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that pharmacies were ‘asked to risk footing the bill for NHS medicines month after month, particularly when supply issues are not our fault and are completely out of our control’.