Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

MPs call for Government to ‘get a grip’ on drugs shortages

(Julien Behal/PA)
(Julien Behal/PA)

MPs have urged the Government to “get a grip” on drugs shortages and commission an independent review of the medicines supply chain.

The Health and Social Care Committee also called for a “complete overhaul” of the funding framework for community pharmacy if the sector is to realise its potential.

The report, published as part of the committee’s inquiry into pharmacy services, warned the sector is “creaking under the strain of funding pressures, medicine shortages and skill mix challenges”.

It urged the Government to tackle drugs shortages or risk the failure of Pharmacy First, which was launched in January.

The policy allows patients to be treated for seven common conditions at their local pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

The report said: “While the overwhelming majority of the 14,000 licensed medicines in the UK are in good supply, the number in short supply has been growing since the start of 2022 and is now double what it was in 2021.

“The Government must get a grip on these shortages. It is not enough to rely on existing policies, which are clearly insufficient.

“An independent review of the medicines supply chain must be commissioned to assess the resilience of the supply chain, especially for generic medicines.”

The committee warned that patients could be reluctant to visit pharmacies for clinical services if medication is out of stock, and said Pharmacy First will “fail if people keep having to return to their GP”.

MPs said they were “deeply concerned” to hear about the challenges patients are facing in getting hold of medication, particularly those with type 2 diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and cystic fibrosis and women going through menopause.

The report also called for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) to be “completely overhauled”.

The framework was created by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England to expand the role of community pharmacies to make them the first point of contact for patients in need of health advice or with minor illnesses.

However, MPs described it as not fit for purpose and overly complex, and claimed it is contributing to the financial pressures pharmacies are facing.

The report said funding for the sector has declined by 30% in real terms since 2015, leading to an annual shortfall for individual owners of at least £67,000 per pharmacy.

The number of pharmacies has fallen by more than 1,000 in the past nine years, the report said, with 34.9% of closures in deprived areas.

It also highlighted staff shortages in the sector, and claimed 86% of the workforce is facing burnout.

It called for the publication of a workforce plan for the sector to ensure new pharmacists have the correct supervision, training and learning time.

The report added: “Despite the challenges that the sector faces, there is great ambition to deliver more for patients.

“The Government and NHS England should match the sector’s own ambition and publish a long-term vision for the further development of clinical services in community pharmacy settings.”

It also said NHS England should commission community pharmacies to deliver HIV prevention drug PrEP, as well as seasonal vaccines for adults and children.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Independent Pharmacies Association (IPA), said: “We are overjoyed to finally hear some clear thinking from an independent review body as we have been shouting loud and clear for years now that the community pharmacy contract is broken, and that our medicines supply system needs urgent review.”

The MPs said community pharmacy has “fantastic potential to improve access to healthcare and alleviate pressures on the wider health service”, but “the sector needs better support if that potential is to be delivered”.

Dr Hannbeck added: “For many pharmacies it is too late but many can be saved if our broken contract and funding is addressed immediately.

“We have always maintained our dedication to patient care and we demonstrated that during the pandemic when we kept our doors open.

“If invested in and supported the pharmacy network can be a huge asset to our NHS and help lift the pressures elsewhere in our healthcare system.”

Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said the “landmark” report should be “essential reading for the next government”.

“It should be first on the desk for any incoming health secretary and they should adopt the MPs’ recommendations without delay,” he added.

“The committee tells it as it is: pharmacies have huge potential to improve local health care and cut GP and hospital waiting times.

“Yet they have suffered a decade of cuts, hundreds upon hundreds have closed and those that remain open face a financial cliff edge.

“There are many sensible detailed recommendations about chronic problems with medicine supply and other issues facing pharmacies and their patients every day. The next government needs to read this report, act on it and help save our pharmacies, otherwise millions of voters will be the poorer.”

A Tory spokesperson said: “The Conservatives recognise the important role that pharmacies have in helping patients receive care more quickly in their local community.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are delivering on a clear plan to boost the role and support for pharmacies, as we take the bold action needed to help people live healthier and happier lives.”