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Medicine shortages ‘causing moral distress’ among GPs


Medicine shortages ‘causing moral distress’ among GPs

Three quarters of family doctors are experiencing moral distress because they cannot access medicines they know their patients need, a survey by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland has found.

Moral distress, according to the MMDUS, occurs when someone knows the ethically correct action to take but is constrained from taking it. During a crisis, the frequency and severity of moral distress increases.

“The impact on doctors’ health from moral distress can be significant, being linked to severe mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD,” says the MMDUS.

The survey also showed that almost nine-in-ten GPs believe the shortage of prescription medicine is severely hampering their ability to practice safely.

More than a third (36 per cent) say that medicine shortages have worsened in 2024, and 83 per cent say there is a lack of guidance on how to advise patients about the shortages, including timescales for when the medicine they need will become available.

One doctor who responded to the MDDUS survey, said: “We have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to check the supply issues about particular drugs. Sometimes even though we look on the appropriate medicine shortage protocols, local supply issues seem to be a lot different.

“It is getting rather surreal that many common medications are out of stock. This causes a lot of anxiety for my patients who have to frequently go from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to find a medication that they really need.

“We have to print out hardcopy prescriptions for patients to do this which takes time. In the days gone by community pharmacy would suggest alternatives: nowadays, they just tell us that something is not in. And we have to decide what the alternative is or what the options are.”

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