Fresh concerns have been raised around the ‘burden’ of medicine supply issues for both pharmacy teams and patients, as new data suggests more than one in 10 people have had to visit multiple pharmacies to obtain their prescription medicines in the past year.

The new statistics from AI-powered supply chain management platform 7bridges, also showed around 8% of patients in the UK have been forced to leave their local area and travel as far as 10 miles to collect their medicines.

The data is based on a survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK and was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of 7bridges in March 2023.

Some 11% of respondents said they had been unable to get hold of their prescription medication in their local pharmacy. This figure jumped to 17% in the Greater London area.

Responding to the findings, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told The Pharmacist the results were ‘not surprising’ giving the ongoing issues with supply.

She said that AIMp continued to highlight the ‘burden the supply challenges are putting on pharmacy teams and patients’, as well as a ‘rise in abuse that pharmacy teams have been subjected to’ and the ‘hours they spend daily trying to source medicines for patients’. Meanwhile, pharmacy contractors are also often ‘left out of pocket due to high costs of medicines’, she added.

She said the association had repeatedly called on the government to take action and warned that unless this happened ‘patients will continue being affected and the situation can only get worse’.

In addition, vice chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Jay Badenhorst said: ‘The fact that patients sometimes have to go from pillar to post for medicines is very frustrating for community pharmacists, who pride themselves on providing a convenient service.

‘It is doubly galling if the pharmacy is blamed for the shortage, when the situation is usually down to factors beyond their direct control.’

He added: ‘Often pharmacies only find out about a shortage when the wholesaler’s van arrives without an item that has been ordered. There is too little visibility of problems emerging further up the supply chain.’

A recent survey by Community Pharmacy England – formerly known as PSNC – found the majority of pharmacists have experienced aggression from patients due to medicine supply issues.

Gordon Hockey, director of legal at Community Pharmacy England, said: ‘Medicines supply and pricing issues are an ongoing battle for community pharmacy teams and their patients.

‘Our own Pharmacy Pressures Survey this year found that almost all of the pharmacy staff surveyed reported that they are experiencing extra workload (97%) and additional stress (96%) due to supply issues, and even more reported that patients are frustrated (98%) and inconvenienced (97%) by these issues. 87% of pharmacy teams members said that patient health is being put at risk due to medicines supply issues.’

He added: ‘Whilst pharmacy teams are working immeasurably hard doing their best for patients in the face of all kinds of pressures, supply issues simply aren’t within their gift to solve. The situation shows little sign of improving after years of turbulence and, with patient safety at risk, the government urgently needs to step in and help stabilise the medicines market.’