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Medicine shortages in England ‘beyond critical’, pharmacists warn

Drug shortages in England are now at such critical levels that patients are at risk of immediate harm and even death, pharmacists have warned.

The situation is so serious that pharmacists increasingly have to issue “owings” to patients – telling someone that only part of their prescription can be dispensed and asking them to come back for the rest of it later, once the pharmacist has sourced the remainder.

Hundreds of different drugs have become hard or impossible to obtain, according to Community Pharmacy England (CPE), which published the report. Widespread and often long-lasting shortages posed “immediate risks to patient health and wellbeing” and caused distress, it said.

“The medicine supply challenges being faced by community pharmacies and their patients are beyond critical,” said Janet Morrison, CPE’s chief executive. “Patients with a wide range of clinical and therapeutic needs are being affected on a daily basis and this is going far beyond inconvenience, leading to frustration, anxiety and affecting their health.

CPE, which represents England’s 10,500 community pharmacies, based its findings on a survey of the views of owners of 6,100 pharmacy premises and 2,000 of their staff. It found:

  • 79% of pharmacy staff said that medicine shortages were putting patient health at risk.
  • 91% of pharmacy owners had seen a “significant increase” in the problem since last year.
  • 99% of pharmacy workers found a drug was unavailable at least weekly, and 72% encountered that several times a day.

Pharmacists are finding themselves on the receiving end of abuse and hostility from patients who are frustrated and angered by not being able to get the drugs they have been prescribed.

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Source: Guardian, 9 May 2024


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