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.
The change to the regulations narrowly avoided being revoked – by 292 votes to 240 – in parliament last week (March 18), in a debate which saw MPs argue that pharmacists are “not necessarily skilled” enough to implement a protocol.
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English board, told C+D two days after the vote that the attitude from MPs is “very depressing, especially when some of the people making these comments have been positive about pharmacists in the past”.
“We are seeing this reaction because some groups, such as epilepsy charities, have been proactive at raising concerns and MPs have a duty to respond to their constituents. But they haven’t thought through what they have been saying. It’s just not coherent.”
Ms Gidley said she had spoken to a few of the MPs who took part in the debate and believed she had changed their minds.
“It is frustrating when an MP you have spoken to in the past and seems to understand what you do makes ill-informed comments like these,” she said.
“But after I explained to some of them how the new powers will benefit patients, they did seem to have more understanding.”
The RPS said it had written to the MPs involved in the debate, “reminding them of the skills and training pharmacists have as the experts in the safe and effective use of medicines”.
Two of pharmacy’s parliamentary champions, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth – who tabled the motion to revoke the powers – and Julie Cooper have both explained to C+D why they opposed the change to the regulations.