The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has received thousands of reports of shortages every month since summer 2017, The Pharmacist has learned.

Director of pharmacy funding Mike Dent told The Pharmacist that PSNC has received 'a few thousand reports' of generic stock shortages per month since the summer.

He continued: ‘We’d like to thank those pharmacy teams who have taken the time to make those reports as it helps us to build an evidence base to support our concession negotiations with the DHSC.’

The Pharmacist contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for comment.

‘Substantial increase’

Mr Dent said that ‘the numbers of products and levels of price increases have caused a substantial increase in the NHS’ drugs bill’.

He added: ‘It’s also continuing to cause considerable problems for contractors who are already under massive pressure following the Government’s cuts to funding and recovery of excess margin earned in previous years.

‘The PSNC has been working to ensure that the DHSC understands the problems and risks if pharmacies aren’t able to obtain medicines for patients in a timely manner and to press for better systems to address the impact of high price rises.’

In recent months, no fewer than 20 generic products have been granted multiple price concessions.

Shortages ‘impossible to predict’

Mr Dent said: ‘We’re hoping to see a reduction in the number of lines affected by shortage and pricing issues, but the medicines market is extremely complex making it impossible to predict whether this trend will continue.’

'The PSNC and DHSC have been holding discussions on setting up a fair system, which would be ‘more responsive to price rises and ensure community pharmacy contractors don’t carry unreasonable costs on behalf of the NHS’.

‘We believe that forthcoming regulation on the disclosure of information on healthcare products will have an impact on managing price concessions, when a refined system can be established, which makes use of the increased data capture.

‘We’ll continue to press for immediate improvements to the price concessions system,' added Mr Dent.

Cash flow issues

As some products are at a much higher price than reimbursement prices, pharmacists are forced to shop around to find alternative products.

Mike Hewitson, superintendent pharmacist at Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset, argues that pharmacy losses could represent as much as £40m for the whole country for September alone.

He said: ‘In September, I calculated that the cost of the concessionary line, based on my dispensing workload, had resulted in a £3,500 cost increase for one branch for one month.

'With funding so tight, pharmacies can’t afford to sustain those sorts of losses for very long.

‘At the moment, pharmacies are buying in the dark, with no idea if they’re going to get paid for the medicine or make a loss on it.

‘It’s a very scary place for pharmacists to be.’

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