Chemists call for power to change prescriptions for out of stock items

Chemists call for powers to change customers’ prescriptions if items are out of stock – in a bid to cut delays

  • Pharmacists must provide exact prescriptions to customers under current law 
  • But they say the current prescriptions process is ‘a waste of everybody’s time’
  • New proposal could let chemists change quantities and strength of prescription

High street chemists are calling for powers to alter customers’ prescriptions to cut delays if the medicine is out of stock.

Under their proposals, they would dispense a smaller pack of medication if a large one is unavailable – or provide it in tablet form if they are out of capsules.

Pharmacists called the current process ‘a waste of everybody’s time’ and said the powers would speed up access to medicines, give them more face-to-face time with patients and cut GPs’ workload.

Under their proposals, they would dispense a smaller pack of medication if a large one is unavailable – or provide it in tablet form if they are out of capsules [File photo]

At the moment, the law says they have to provide the exact prescription.

If it is not available, the patient must wait while they contact other pharmacies to see if they have it, ask the manufacturer for help or call the patient’s GP and arrange a different prescription. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society proposals would let chemists make changes to the quantities, strength and formulation of the prescription, or supply a generic version without contacting the prescriber every time.

But the British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has previously warned more power for pharmacists would need to be strictly regulated to ensure it does not compromise safety.

It said patients could be put at risk if chemists were able to provide ‘therapeutic equivalents’ – drugs that have the same effect but may be chemically different – without consulting the prescriber.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society director of pharmacy Robbie Turner said that chemists had encountered ‘plenty’ of difficulty supplying medicines during the pandemic and the run-up to Brexit and needed more flexibility under the law to use their judgment.

Pharmacists called the current process ‘a waste of everybody’s time’ and said the powers would speed up access to medicines, give them more face-to-face time with patients and cut GPs’ workload [File photo]

He added: ‘If a patient arrives with a prescription for one pack of 400mg strength tablets which is out of stock, we’re not allowed to alter the prescription so we can provide them with two packets of the 200mg version. If they’re prescribed capsules which are unavailable, we can’t provide them with tablets or a liquid version. This is a waste of everyone’s time when the answer is already sitting on the shelf.

‘At a time when primary care services are under enormous pressure, it’s right to address this imbalance. The law should be changed so when there are supply problems pharmacists can use their professional judgment to make simple, specific changes to prescriptions for the benefit of all.

‘Pharmacists in hospital and community pharmacies in Scotland already routinely alter prescriptions for the benefit of patients. All pharmacists should be allowed to minimise the impact of shortages on patient care.’

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