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Shortages powers extended to all medicines and appliances from July

Legislative powers to allow pharmacists to supply different medicines and appliances during times of shortages will be introduced into pharmacies’ terms of service from next month.

The Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019 order – which came into force on February 9 – includes provisions to allow pharmacists to dispense an alternative in accordance with a “serious shortage protocol” that could be announced by the government – rather than the prescription and without contacting the GP – in the event of a national medicines shortage.

In the next stage of the process, legislation to introduce the powers into community pharmacy’s terms of service was laid before parliament last Friday (June 7) and is expected to come into force on July 1.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) director of pharmacy Leyla Hannbeck said the National Health Service (Amendments Relating to Serious Shortage Protocols) Regulations 2019 now extend the shortages powers to cover all drugs and appliances dispensed in England – not just prescription-only-medicines (POMs).

Avoiding duplicate supplies

One of the “key changes” with the latest legislation is to prevent two products being dispensed, Ms Hannbeck explained in an update to superintendent pharmacists on Monday (June 10).

“Pharmacists must refuse to supply against the original prescription if a serious shortage protocol is in effect and alternative provision has already taken place,” she said.

They will also be expected to use their professional judgement to decide whether it is “reasonable and appropriate” to supply in accordance with the protocol, instead of the original prescription, Ms Hannbeck added. Pharmacists will still be able to supply a product ordered on the original prescription if they deem it necessary.

Need for prompt supply removed

Pharmacists supplying products in accordance with the shortages powers will no longer be expected to dispense “with reasonable promptness”, Ms Hannbeck added. Instead, the supply should be made within “a reasonable timescale” – which is yet to be defined – she explained.

Where an alternative product is supplied, a notification must be included on the dispensing label, and GPs must be notified if a different POM is supplied, Ms Hannbeck added.

“I would advise you to ensure that your teams, including any locums you engage, are aware of the changes,” she told superintendents.

Would you be happy to dispense an alternative under a government 'serious shortage protocol'?

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