Legal amendments that introduce serious shortage protocols (SSPs) into the terms of service for NHS community pharmacies are due to come into force from 1 July 2019, subject to approval from Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary.
The amendments to the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013, which provide guidelines for pharmacies to follow, were laid before Parliament on 7 June 2019.
The guidelines say that, where a SSP is in place for a particular product, a retail pharmacy business or a dispensing appliance contractor must consider supplying it in accordance with the SSP rather than fulfilling an NHS prescription.
This could result in the supply of a different product or a different quantity of the ordered product.
However, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said requirements of SSPs will vary, often according to the type of SSP, and supply may not be appropriate.
The SSP legislation was first introduced in February 2019 as part of planning for a no-deal Brexit, to enable the government to introduce alternative arrangements for supply where a medicine or appliance is ordered on prescription but there is — or may in the future be — a serious shortage of that medicine or appliance.
The PSNC, which has been working with the Department of Health and Social Care and system suppliers to agree the endorsements, fees and paperwork that will be associated with SSPs, is to provide further guidance on the implications for community pharmacy.