Pharmacists are one step closer to gaining powers next month to overrule GP prescriptions if shortages become so severe in the event of that the required medication is unavailable.

The Government has laid draft legislation before Parliament that will give pharmacists the powers to dispense alternative medicines, different dosages or forms to the prescription from February following discussion with the patient, it announced on Friday (18 January)

The so-called serious shortages protocols (SSPs) could be deployed if serious shortages occur if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.

The SPPs will be:

  • proposed only if in the opinion of the Minister there is a serious shortage;
  • developed with the involvement of clinicians;
  • issued only in exceptional circumstances;
  • more likely to be for alternative quantity, strength or pharmaceutical form;
  • less likely to be for generic or therapeutic substitution; and,
  • while introduced due to the possibility of a no-deal exit from the EU, their introduction is not dependent on it.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it welcomed how quickly the Government tabled the legislation but, said there is 'work [to be done to] to address the practical issues associated with any introduction must now begin'.

It said: 'We will continue to work closely with Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ensure that the introduction of any SSP is practical for community pharmacy and that any costs incurred are recognised.

'The introduction of SSPs also has implications for community pharmacy contractor’s Terms of Service, which PSNC will be discussing with the DHSC.'