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RPS calls for further legislation changes allowing pharmacists to alter prescriptions during shortages

In a letter to The Times, the president of the RPS argues that community pharmacists should have more room for manoeuvre when a medicine is out of stock.

Sandra Gidley

Source: Nic Bunce / The Pharmaceutical Journal

Sandra Gidley called for community pharmacists to be allowed to make changes to a prescription when a medicine is in short supply or out of stock

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for pharmacists to be able to alter prescriptions in the event of a supply shortage.

In a letter published in The Times on 6 August 2020, Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said it would “prevent a lot of unnecessary delays if community pharmacists were allowed to make changes to a prescription when a medicine is in short supply or out of stock”, and that a change to medicines legislation was needed to allow for this.

Gidley also said that the UK and EU need to agree a deal on medicines regulation as soon as possible, adding that pharmacists “find themselves at the sharp end when patients cannot obtain the medicines that they need”.

The RPS added in a statement that pharmacists should be able to make amendments to the quantities, strength and formulation of medicines dispensed, and be able to “supply another generic version of a medicine on a prescription, without having to contact the prescriber every time”.

Pharmacists are already able to amend prescriptions for medicines faced with supply problems under serious shortage protocols (SSPs), which came into effect on 1 July 2019. But the RPS has previously said that member feedback indicates SSPs are “rarely used and when they are issued, they are bureaucratic, professionally frustrating and inflexible” and that “a more pragmatic approach is required”.

Robbie Turner, RPS director of pharmacy and member experience, said that pharmacists “experienced plenty of difficulties supplying medicines during COVID-19 and in the run-up to Brexit, and need more flexibility under the law to make simple changes to prescriptions that help patients”.

Turner added that community pharmacies in Scotland, and pharmacists working in hospitals, “already routinely alter prescriptions for the benefit of patients”.

“All pharmacists should be allowed to minimise the impact of medicine shortages on patient care,” he said.

The call for a change to legislation was previously made in the RPS’s policy document, ‘The future of pharmacy in a sustainable NHS’, published in July 2020.

In its Medicines Shortage Policy, the Society said that to mitigate the impact on patients of medicines shortages, “legislation should be amended to allow pharmacists to make minor amendments without a protocol”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208249

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