Any current medicine supply issues within the UK are likely the result of the ongoing petrol crisis after a surge in demand from drivers over the weekend, PSNC has said.

This comes after pharmacists across the country have reported that orders of medicines are arriving late, with The Telegraph reporting that one major supplier of medications had to suspend deliveries for a week because of distribution problems.

Running alongside the current fuel crisis is an ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, which PSNC has said is not currently contributing to any drug supply issues.

The ongoing shortage of van drivers is a result of a combination of factors including, Covid and recent Brexit-related changes in the rules on immigration and tax.

In a statement published yesterday (27 September), PSNC said there appears to be 'no issue with supply of medicines into the country'.

'We have not been seeing some of the early medicines supply warning signals at a national level – such as a rising number of concession prices,' it said.

Instead, the negotiating body has attributed delayed deliveries to the growing crisis in fuel supply, which it said varies in severity across the country.

‘The feedback we have been getting from contractors suggests a mixed picture across the country, with the supply situation undoubtedly worse now for some pharmacies.

‘Today some pharmacies were affected by missed deliveries following events over the weekend [panic buying fuel].

‘We understand that different wholesalers have different ways they access fuel supplies and, therefore, some areas of the country may be more affected than others.’

As it stands, a number of petrol stations are thought to have run dry across the UK and the public has been urged to stop panic buying.

A spokesperson from the Company Chemist Association (CCA) also told The Pharmacist it and its members were not aware of any specific issues with deliveries of medicines.

‘We are monitoring the situation closely and remain confident that we are equipped to continue to provide people with the medicines they need,’ they said.

Commenting on the fuel crisis and its impact on the pharmacy sector, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president, Claire Anderson, said: ‘As normal, pharmacists are working with patients to ensure they get the medicines they need. We’re not aware that the problems with fuel supplies are stopping patients from getting their medicines.’

Gareth Jones, the National Pharmacy Association's (NPA) head of corporate affairs, said: ‘Deliveries to some pharmacies have been reduced, but our members have been working hard to ensure that the impact on patient's access to treatment is currently limited. Some pharmacies have also had to think carefully about who they prioritise for home deliveries.

‘A resilient medicines supply chain is vital to the health of the nation, so this mustn’t be allowed to escalate into a widespread problem that impacts patient care.’

However, pharmacists have reported issues with getting hold of fuel and getting into work themselves.

In response to this, The Pharmacists’ Defence Union (PDA) has called on the government to give pharmacy team members, and those delivering supplies of medicines and clinical equipment, priority access to fuel so they can make it to work and look after their patients.  

Despite PSNC’s reassurance, there have already been reports of some medicine deliveries being delayed because of a lack of HGV drivers.  

Earlier this month, flu vaccine provider Seqirus said that pharmacies in England and Wales could see delays of up to two weeks on deliveries of flu vaccines due to issues related to a shortage of HGV drivers.  

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told The Pharmacist that she had raised the question of what measures were in place to ensure that supply lines were not disrupted. ‘It was a question I asked at a round table with government representatives, so hopefully, we will get some reassurance,’ said Hannbeck, whose association represents more than 2,000 independent pharmacies around the UK.

‘We do everything we can to make sure that we are prepared for any eventuality so that people are not left without medicines.’