Prescription Drugs: Pharmacy

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 29 January 2024.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if she will make an assessment of the potential merits of allowing pharmacists to prescribe alternative medications if those prescribed by a GP are not available without referring back to the GP.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Our assessment is that allowing pharmacists to take local action to alter prescriptions and supply an alternative without the full oversight of supply issues that the Department has, could have the effect of creating a knock-on shortage of the alternative and could thereby have the potential to exacerbate rather than mitigate supply problems. Furthermore, pharmacies will not know the reasons why a medicine has been prescribed, and in what particular way.

However, Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) enable community pharmacists to supply a specified medicine or device in accordance with a protocol rather than a prescription, with the patient’s consent, and without needing to seek authorisation from the prescriber. SSPs are an additional tool that have been used in recent years to manage and mitigate medicine and medical devices shortages. SSPs are not introduced unless sufficient supplies of the alternative product to be supplied in accordance with the SSP are available to support the market.

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