RPS president Sandra Gidley

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is calling for community pharmacists to be allowed the powers to make changes to prescriptions so they can speed up patients’ access to medicine.

In a letter in The Times ‘Letters to the Editor’ section published today (Aug 6), Sandra Gidley, the RPS president, said the law should be changed so all community phramcists can make changes to prescription.

She argued that this would prevent a lot of unnecessary delays, especially when a medicine was in short supply or out of stock.

“This could be as simple as providing two weeks’ supply and asking the patient to collect the rest in a fortnight. At present any changes to quantities, strength or formulation can legally only be done by the prescriber,” Gidley wrote, noting that only “a change to medicines legislation” can make this happen.

The RPS said the proposed amends would reduce the workload of GPs and give pharmacists more face to face time with patients.

In a statement, RPS Director of Pharmacy Robbie Turner expanded on Gildey’s point: “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 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, 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.”

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