Medicines Shortages – a local solution


The supply situation of medicines in the last few years has been well publicised at a national level which affects both GP practices and community pharmacies workload locally and has raised concerns about patients not being able to obtain vital medicines.

Supply issues are not a new phenomenon, but there has been a recent surge in the number of both generic and branded medicines affected. Medicines shortages can be caused by a range of factors, including manufacturing problems. Generics prices in England are also incredibly low compared to most parts of the world, which may make the market less attractive. Uncertainty around Brexit and contingency planning may be another factor currently exacerbating the issues but the majority of pharmacies sometimes experience difficulties in sourcing medicines.

Community pharmacy teams are often put in a very difficult situation and most are having to work far harder than usual to obtain supplies of medicines for their patients. This can lead to delays for patients needing the affected medicines and has increased the workload for both the community pharmacy team and GP practice.

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire LMC and Community Pharmacy Hertfordshire (Hertfordshire LPC) are aware of the issues that are arising from the current situation and has agreed a medicines shortages form. This form is for use by the community pharmacy to communicate with the GP practices issues that a community pharmacy is experiencing for stock to be supplied to their patients. It could be supplied to the GP practice by email, directly or used as a prompt in any calls to the GP practice to inform them of the expected duration of the shortage, when the item will return to stock and to suggest an alternative to be supplied.

Communication of the problem directly between the community pharmacy and GP practice without patient involvement will:

  • prevent patient complaints;
  • stop unnecessary patient journeys;
  • assist resolution of the issue; and
  • reduce stress and frustration for all.

You could supply a copy of this form to the patient if all other forms of communication with the GP practice have been exhausted and the patient feels that they require their medication and the change to be implemented urgently.

Whilst we understand the use of the form may be time consuming and add to day to day pressures a consistent approach will make this matter simpler for all to understand and manage.

Community Pharmacy Hertfordshire (Hertfordshire LPC) would encourage all community pharmacies to use the medication shortage form and develop local communications as to how to share this information. Community Pharmacy Hertfordshire (Hertfordshire LPC) is exploring the use of the PharmOutcomes platform for notifying this electronically in the future.

Please remember a leaflet is available to give to patients explaining medicines shortages.