An urgent consultation that proposes emergency powers for pharmacists to ration drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit has concluded yesterday (12 December).

The informal consultation by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) suggests changes to the Human Medicines Regulation 2012 to ensure safe and effective supply of medicines to the public.

The major proposal concerns with invoking a ‘serious shortage protocol’, allowing pharmacists to swap drugs, reduce quantity or change dosage, overruling GP prescriptions.

The consultation followed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s updated guidance that additional actions may be needed to supplement the medicine stockpiling by manufacturers due to the changed border assumptions, which warned of warns of potential border delays for up to six months.

Pharmacy bodies have welcomed the proposal.

Commenting on the consultation, Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, said: “We support the principle of enabling community pharmacists, in the event of serious national medicines shortages, to support primary care by dispensing in accordance with serious shortage protocols (SSP) rather than a prescription, without contacting the GP.

“It is now imperative that the Department for Health and Social Care works with the community pharmacy sector, including the CCA, and the wider NHS to ensure that the implementation of the proposed changes can be delivered in the most safe and effective way for patients.

“However, there must be recognition of the impact these proposals may have against what we would consider to be current ‘normal’ practice and workloads. We believe that the workload and cost impact to pharmacies of making supplies against SSPs will be considerable.”

Simon Dukes, chief executive of PSNC, said the measure would assist in implementing many of the measures it has suggested.

“We will continue to work closely with [DHSC] on the detail of that and we have committed to assisting their work in the event of there being a significant impact on the medicines supply chain after Brexit,” Dukes said in the letter to the Health and Social Care Committee of House of Commons.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society has also pledged its support for the proposal.

“We support pharmacists using their professional judgment to decide on what medicine to dispense. Pharmacists will work with doctors to make sure any communication about changes to medicines is clear,” it said in a statement.