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HRT PPC website crashes as more than 37k purchased in first days of scheme

More than 37,000 hormone replacement therapy (HRT) pre-payment certificates (PPC) have been purchased following the certificate’s launch on April 1, causing the website to crash, the government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) today (April 4) announced that “over 37,700 certificates for HRT have been purchased already, both via the online website and in-person in pharmacies, following the launch”.

As of noon today, 37,240 HRT PPCs have been bought online and 501 in-pharmacy, totalling 37,741 certificates, it said.

The new PPC came into force on Saturday (April 1) and is predicted to enable “around 400,000 women” in England to access cheaper HRT, it added.

Read more: Government admits HRT PPC will create additional 'costs' for pharmacies

With around 37,700 purchased so far and the average woman saving £30 for a year’s supply, more than £1.13 million “has been saved by women in four days alone”, according to the DH.

The PPC means that women can access HRT as many times as they need throughout the year by paying a one-off charge equivalent to two single prescription charges – currently £19.30 – for all their HRT prescriptions.


“Huge demand” causes temporary website crash


The DH said that “huge demand for the much-anticipated certificate meant some patients were unable to access the website on the morning of April 1” when the scheme launched.

The NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) website – where the PPC can be purchased – temporarily crashed on Saturday due to the high volumes of web traffic, it said.

Read more: PSNC: HRT pre-payment certificate poses 'financial risk' to pharmacies

But it added that this was fixed shortly after and that the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) has confirmed that the website is “up and running”.

“The NHSBSA has ensured that the site has been working, allowing thousands of women to continue to successfully purchase a prescription for a year’s worth of hormone replacement therapy products which help treat the menopause”, it said.

Read more: DH extends 11 HRT and penicillin SSPs until late April

Minister for women’s health strategy Maria Caulfield said that the uptake shows “what happens when we listen to what women want”.

“Delivering on our promise to make women’s health a priority comes with challenges – but it is hugely important to everyone, and I am massively proud of the work we have done,” she said.


Pharmacy cost concerns


Pharmacy bodies have raised concerns about the launch of the PPC, with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) warning that the move will “introduce additional workload and financial risk for community pharmacy teams”.

And last month, the DH admitted that the PPC would “require some workarounds for pharmacy contractors” and that there would be “associated costs” until solutions were in place.

Read more: DH issues new estradiol patch SSP as HRT tablets also out of stock until June

It comes as some HRT products are still subject to serious shortage protocols (SSPs), such as Sandrena gel sachets that are subject to restriction and substitution until April 28 and estradiol patches that can be substituted until June 9.

HRT tablets containing estradiol will also be out of stock until late June.

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