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RPS launches project to investigate medicines shortages

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A newly formed advisory group will provide recommendations to address the factors contributing to this issue and reduce its impact on patient care.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) on Wednesday announced that it is spearheading a new project, which aims to delve into the root causes of the growing challenge of medicines shortages across the United Kingdom and provide solutions to mitigate its impact on patients and pharmacy practice.

A newly formed advisory group, chaired by RPS Fellow Dr. Bruce Warner, is set to convene later this month. The group will have experts from primary and secondary care, patient advocacy groups, the pharmaceutical industry, suppliers, regulatory bodies, governmental representatives, and NHS officials.

The group aims to formulate a robust report to provide expert thought leadership and support for the wider debate on UK policy. Their work will be informed by a thorough literature review, stakeholder interviews, online RPS member events, and patient stories.

The report will not only shed light on the multifaceted factors contributing to medicine shortages but also provide actionable recommendations.

RPS President, Professor Claire Anderson, emphasised that ensuring patients receive the medications they require remains central to the ethos of pharmacy practice.

He acknowledged that medicine shortages have increased significantly over the last few years, taking a toll on RPS members and their patients.

“Patients can be bounced from pillar to post when a medicine is in short supply, and we’ve seen recent cases where they are really struggling to find an alternative. This is distressing for patients and frustrating for pharmacists.

“Medicines shortages are a shared challenge across the health system and we will bring together key stakeholders, undertake research and offer solutions to improve patients’ experience,” he added.

Dr Bruce Warner, Chair of the Advisory Group, highlighted that medicines constitute a vital component of NHS care, and their supply chain is integral to the UK’s infrastructure, but shortages continue to be a real concern.

“Medicines shortages may not be new, but there is now a growing recognition that greater collaboration is needed to help drive change.

“We look forward to bringing together experts in the coming months to examine what steps can begin to make a difference for patients,” he added.

Sharon Brennan, Director of Policy and External Affairs at National Voices, said that their organisation, representing over 200 health and social care charities, has been increasingly receiving feedback from the individuals they advocate for, regarding concerns around medicine shortages.

“Chasing prescriptions, trying to get a GP appointment to have an alternative medicine prescribed, or in many cases for support with their health condition when their medication runs out, places increasing burden and unnecessary anxiety on patients,” she stated.

She expressed confidence that this advisory group would consider “practical, short-term solutions” to the current problems patients are facing while also exploring longer-term solutions to prevent the recurrence of this issue.

Sharon added that without such actions, patients will continue to live with the real worry about their health deteriorating due to inadequate access to essential medications.

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