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Primary care told not to stockpile medicine or write longer prescriptions ahead of EU exit

by Awil Mohamoud
14 December 2020

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Primary care providers have been told to avoid stockpiling medicine and writing longer prescriptions for patients, as the UK prepares to leave the EU on 1 January 2021. 

In a letter sent to healthcare providers and commissioners on 10 December, NHS England said it is working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which has taken steps ‘to help ensure medicines continue to be available and that any supply disruptions are mitigated’.

The letter reiterated DHSC guidance, that states ‘it is not necessary’ for local providers to stockpile or write longer prescriptions. 

It added: ‘Unnecessary stockpiling puts more pressure on the supply chain and can risk additional pressure on the availability of medicines in other parts of the country. 

‘Prescribers and pharmacists should explain to patients that they should continue to order their prescriptions as normal.’

This follows a November update from the DHSC to medicine suppliers, which highlighted action the department has taken in light of the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of the year. 

The DHSC said it has asked medicine suppliers from or through the EU to stockpile six weeks’ total stock on UK soil where possible, and where medicines  cannot be stockpiled, due to short shelf-life, ensure alternative routes using air freight.

It said it has also worked with suppliers to provide alternative routes away from the Channel short straits crossings to mitigate against any risk of bottlenecks at ports.

The latest letter also said that in preparation for further possible waves of Covid-19, the DHSC has recently tendered for stockpiles of key critical care medicines, antibiotics and end of life care medicine.

It added that in the ‘exceptional and rare situation’ that these measures are exhausted or prove ineffective, the ‘serious shortage protocols’ (SSPs) – which would see patients offered alternative prescriptions – could help ‘manage and mitigate’ stock issues.