Community pharmacists are highly trained professionals and will uphold patient safety if required to follow medicine shortage protocols, an organisation representing the pharmacy multiples has told MPs.
The Company Chemists’ Association wrote to MPs following a March 18 House of Commons debate in which several parliamentarians expressed concerns that the recently introduced Serious Shortage Protocol legislation – which allows pharmacists to dispense alternatives to the prescription specified by a GP – could negatively impact on patient safety.
Legislation changes to introduce the SSPs began in early 2019, with final legislative changes yet to be passed.
In the event of serious shortages, bespoke protocols will be drawn up that will be tailored to the medicine in question and will have input from medics, it has been confirmed. SSPs are expected to be a last resort that are only used when other measures have been exhausted.
It is thought that some of the anxiety around SSPs stems from misunderstanding as to how they will work and their overall scope. The CCA has written to MPs to explain how they are intended to work, why they might be required and how pharmacists would “work closely with GPs to ensure the continued safe supply of medicines”.
The CCA said it had also met with Labour MP Julie Cooper, who has promoted community pharmacy but who voted against the SSP legislation after the Commons debate, to discuss the sector’s potential, and that it would continue to seek to influence MPs – in part through its work with the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG).
Speaking to Pharmacy Magazine shortly after the Commons debate, APPG chair Kevin Barron MP said that “it is clear from the debate that many MPs do not understand the role that pharmacists play or the skills that they have.”
“The All Party Group has consistently advocated that pharmacy should have an integral role in the primary and community care system if it is to be fit for the future,” Mr Barron said, adding: “I hope we as a group can change [MPs' attitudes] going forward.”
“The issue of shortages is not a new one,” Mr Barron remarked, saying the APPG supported the SSP legislation.
"Pharmacy teams work hard to prevent shortages from disrupting patients’ access to medicines, and the Group welcomes government plans to allow pharmacists to substitute medicines that are in short supply with suitable alternatives," he said. "Pharmacists will be able to take action to help patients get their medicines in a timely fashion, without the need for referral back to a GP.”