RPS calls for community pharmacists to be allowed to alter prescriptions

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is calling for all community pharmacists to be allowed to make changes to prescriptions that would reduce unnecessary delays in providing medicines to patients if the item prescribed was in short supply or out of stock. A letter from RPS President Sandra Gidley appears in today’s Times.

The proposed amends would allow pharmacists to make changes to the quantities, strength and formulation dispensed, or to supply another generic version of a medicine on a prescription, without having to contact the prescriber every time. This would speed up access to medicines for patients, reduce the workload of GPs and give pharmacists more face to face time with patients.

Pharmacists are at the sharp end when patients can’t get the medicines they need. We experienced plenty of difficulties supplying medicines during Covid-19 and in the run up to Brexit and need more flexibility under the law to make simple changes to prescriptions that help patients. At present if a patient arrives with a prescription for one pack of 400 mg 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 200 mg version, which are in stock.

Neither are we allowed to change the formulation, so if they’re prescribed capsules which are unavailable, we can’t provide them with tablets or a liquid version of the same medicine. Instead, we have to tell the patient they can’t have what’s been prescribed and will face delays in receiving their medicine. We then have to contact other pharmacies to see if they have any stock they can send us, ask the manufacturer for help or call up the patient’s GP and arrange for an alternative to be prescribed.

This is a waste of everyone’s time when the answer is already sitting there 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 judgement to make simple, specific changes to prescriptions for the benefit of all. Pharmacists in hospital, and in community pharmacies in Scotland already routinely alter prescriptions for the benefit of patients. All pharmacists should be allowed to minimize the impact of medicine shortages on patient care.”

Robbie Turner, RPS Director of Pharmacy

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