The All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) has repeated its call for more to be done to tackle medicines shortages, after over half of community pharmacists responding to a survey said they dealt with drug shortages on a daily basis.
In a letter to Alistair Burt, the minister for community and social care, the group calls for the Department of Health, NHS England and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to establish an early warning system to monitor and detect drug shortages, to help reduce the impact of shortages on patients.
“It’s clear that at a time when the NHS needs to be making the very best use of its valuable resources in order to maximise efficiency and productivity, the time healthcare professionals are having to spend on dealing with shortages is damaging,” says Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the APPG.
In the survey, 48% of community pharmacists said they spent 21–50 hours a month dealing with medicines shortages while 16% said they spent 51–75 hours; 5% were spending over 100 hours a month on medicines shortages.
Additionally, 48% of community pharmacists reported that patients had needed additional medical treatment, time off work or been caused emotional distress in the prior six months as a result of medicines being unavailable. And GPs reported the same outcome in 36% of cases where medicines were unavailable.
“We appreciate that the reasons behind shortages are complex and some are not always preventable, but this survey shows that those on the front line believe – like us – that a system which highlights early warning would help to limit the damage the current situation is causing,” adds Barron.
The survey was carried out in collaboration with North of England Commissioning Support between October 2015 and January 2016. There were 206 respondents, including GPs, practice managers, community pharmacists, primary care pharmacists, hospital doctors and hospital pharmacists.