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MPs' suspicion of shortages powers 'depressing' and 'frustrating'

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Sandra Gidley RPS
"It's frustrating when an MP makes ill-informed comments like these"

MPs’ suspicion of pharmacists’ medicine shortages powers is “depressing” and “frustrating”, the RPS’s English board chair has said.

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.

Result

Would you be happy to dispense an alternative under a government 'serious shortage protocol'?
Not sure. It would depend on the specific protocol
41%
Yes, I would be confident dispensing an alternative (quantity/dose/form/therapeutic equivalent) as designated by the government
48%
No. I would never be comfortable dispensing an alternative (quantity/dose/form/therapeutic equivalent) without consulting the GP
11%
Total votes: 118
3 Comments
Question: 
Would you be happy to dispense an alternative under a government 'serious shortage protocol'?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

What I found depressing was a constant stream of pharmacy ministers (whichever administration) who 'valued' pharmacy so much that the community sector would get below inflation settlements. They have no understanding or interest quite frankly. The cut in the global sum was a precedent. The substitution decision would involve more liability to the pharmacist. A decision that I suspect most pharmacists will avoid because of endless form-filling which would accompany it. Community pharmacy is now a hostile (non- professional) environment and is being deliberately degraded by government attrition.

Robin Davies,

I'm wondering how a pharmacist would confidently dispense an alternative medicine when there might be a variety of strengths available, for example if you decided Quetiapine were the right alternative there are six strengths to choose from.

A B, Community pharmacist

I don't think we'll be expected to switch mental health medication, many GPs stop once they get passed SSRIs and refer to a specialist.

We won't be choosing alternatives, it will be based on lists of alternatives issued by the DOH.

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