There are an unusually high number of common medicines that are currently in short supply at the moment.
Shortages can be caused for many reasons, but are usually short term with the product returning to stock within four weeks. There are a smaller number of medicines where there is a long standing problem. These shortages can last for months and, in some cases even a year or more, although this is very rare.
Stock shortages cause problems for pharmacists, GPs, patients and the NHS as a whole:
Community pharmacies – Shortages inevitably lead to increased time spent in finding available stock, helping prescribers to find similar products and explaining to patients. Shortages can also have an effect on relationships as sometimes patients believe the problem is with the pharmacy ordering system rather than a national problem.
GPs – Patients will often go back to the GP to get an alternative product if they have been told it is out of stock. This increases GP workload as they may need to contact their local pharmacist to see what is available and then issue another prescription. Again, it can affect relationships as patients think that GPs should know what is not available but as the situation often changes, this is not always possible.
Patients – stock shortages can lead to delays in patient care and can result in increased visits to pharmacies to collect medicines if the pharmacy has had to ‘owe’ medication. It can also cause worry if a patient relies on their medicine.
NHS – shortages can be very costly to the NHS as there is often increased costs in finding alternatives. If a patient cannot get their medicines it may result in their condition getting worse.
What can you do to help?
Don’t panic. No one wants to see anyone go without their essential medicines. Remember that the problem has not been caused by the GP or pharmacist and it is likely to be only for a week or two.
Plan ahead. With the Christmas and New Year holidays coming up don’t leave it to the last minute. There is no need to order extra medication as this can make shortages worse; just make sure that you have your prescription in plenty of time so if there is a problem, there is time to solve it.
Ask your pharmacist when they are expecting to receive a supply of the medicine. If this is likely to be in a couple of weeks, do you have enough to keep you going until then?
If you need the item urgently or it is going to be out of stock for longer, then ring around your local pharmacies; there may be one that has some stock even if the others have run out. Find your local pharmacies here: https://beta.nhs.uk/find-a-pharmacy/
If you are given an ‘owing slip’ make sure that you go back to the same pharmacy to collect the remainder of your medicine. There is no need to get another prescription.
If you need your medicine and there is no stock available, then please contact your pharmacist or GP surgery and explain the problem. There is no need to make an appointment with your GP. An alternative medication may be prescribed and your pharmacist will be happy to answer any questions that you have about any new medicine.