As the final legislative changes for the Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) are expected to be passed before Easter, the PSNC issued an interim briefing discussing how it would be implemented.

According to the PSNC guideline, SSP will set out a clear protocol that will allow community pharmacists’ to dispense a reduced quantity of medicine, an alternative dosage form, a therapeutic equivalent or a generic equivalent, without going back to the prescriber if it is unable to source that medicine to patients.

The SSP will specify alternative quantity, pharmaceutical form, strength, therapeutic equivalent or generic equivalent, and under what circumstances it could be supplied.

“GPs and pharmacies will be informed via national communications of any SSPs that are issued, so prescribers should have clarity about what will happen in the event that a prescription-only medicine is not available. Each individual SSP will include details of when the prescriber does or does not need to be informed of a supply against the SSP and any timescales for notification, where it is required,” the briefing said.

PSNC added that they are working with the Government and DHSC to clarify matters, including how pharmacies will be alerted when SSPs are issued, how pharmacies will claim any reimbursement for any medicines they have supplied under an SSP if appropriate, any records that pharmacies may be required to keep, and an increase in workload as well as costs that the SSPs may bring for community pharmacies.