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Ensuring supplies of medicines

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Pharmacists in the Island work as a community and share stock as a matter of course, to ensure medicines are available for all who need them.

Over the past 18 months, the UK and Isle of Man have experienced shortages of some medicines, as a result of worldwide problems. The UK Government has given reassurances that medicines supply is among its highest priorities and measures are in place to closely monitor stock levels.

Isle of Man Government is planning ahead and addressing a meds shortage scenario through the introduction of a Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP). This is a measure which can be implemented in exceptional circumstances by the Department for Health and Social Care, with guidance from its UK counterpart. An Order to facilitate this will be brought to Tynwald this month.

A SSP enables community pharmacists, in the event of a shortage in the Island, to supply a prescribed item in a different form than that on the prescription, in accordance with protocols. This means the pharmacist can amend the quantity, strength or formulation of the item requested, without the need to refer back to the patient’s GP or prescriber.

The use of the protocol will not be appropriate for all medicines and all patients, and pharmacists will use their professional judgment to decide which patients need to see their prescriber again if their usual medicine is in short supply.

Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford said:

‘We have made extensive preparations based on advice from the UK DHSC, and I have spoken on several occasions to my counterparts in Westminster. We have been assured the Isle of Man will continue to be treated in the same way as all UK regions in terms of medicines’ supply. We are taking action to shore-up supplies in the event a difficult scenario arises, including after the UK’s eventual departure from the EU.’

He added:

‘We need the ability to implement a SSP. Our community pharmacists will be trained to apply it, and ready to advise patients about changes to their prescription. It may not happen, but it is right that we take responsible action to preserve medicine stocks during periods of shortage.’   

The UK has consistently advised that extra supplies of medicines should not be added to prescriptions at the current time, as this can exacerbate shortages. The protocols are one method of helping to ensure that in the event of a shortage, the needs of all patients in the Island are met.

Amendments to National Health Service Regulations will be put before November Tynwald for approval. If the proposed changes are agreed, a Serious Shortage Protocol will be put in place from 1 December 2019.

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