Out of Use signs covers fuel pumps at a petrol station in Paddock Wood, southeast England on September 27, 2021. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

As the country struggles to match fuel supply with demand, serious concerns have been raised about the continuation of health related services and medicine deliveries across the UK.

In anticipation of disruption to healthcare services amid reports of fuel shortages, dearth of HGV drivers and impact of Covid-19, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has requested the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) to ensure fuel access for critical health care workers including all community pharmacy staff.

“We want their members (forecourt operators) to recognise community pharmacists and their teams as a critical part of the health care workforce,” NPA said.

Besides supplying essential medicines, pharmacies now also provide a range of critical NHS services such as vaccinations for Covid and flu, it pointed out.

The association highlighted that pharmacy staff needs fuel to maintain the supply of medicines to NHS patients, to deliver vital medicines to housebound patients and to reach work places.

Following concerns expressed by members, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association has also written to the prime minister Boris Johnson, asking him to ensure that fuel supply is prioritised for pharmacists.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, PDA highlighted pharmacists’ concerns about the consequences of current fuel panic buying and asked him to ensure they, their teams and supplies of medicine reach the pharmacy.

The letter stated: “We are therefore calling on you as prime minister to ensure that the government prioritises fuel provision for healthcare workers to include pharmacists, and for those delivering supplies of medicines and clinical equipment.”

Separately, the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) is also engaged in urgent talks with the government on the fuel supply issue.

It noted in a statement that its member companies are experiencing challenges in accessing fuel like many other critical sectors across the UK.

The association said some normal delivery schedules for medicines could be disrupted for most of this week due to fuel supply shortage.

Meanwhile, the PRA, which represents nearly 5,500 of the UK’s 8,000 filling stations, has said there are “early signs” the pressure is starting to ease at the pumps.

After a fourth day of long queues and pump closures in the UK, the government is now preparing about 150 military tanker drivers to deliver fuel and has kept another 150 personnel on standby to support them.

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