Contractor Update: Serious Shortage Protocols

Contractor Update: Serious Shortage Protocols

June 28, 2019

On Monday (1st July 2019) legislation will come into force allowing the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to issue Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs).

It is important to note that although legislation will permit the issuing of SSPs from July 1st, an SSP will only be considered by DHSC and issued if there is a serious shortage of a specific medicine. PSNC will notify contractors of any SSPs that are issued, and in practice, we do not expect this to happen immediately.

SSPs are a potential way to help pharmacies to manage any serious shortages of medicines that may occur, without needing to refer patients back to prescribers.

Any SSPs issued will specify an alternative product or quantity that may be supplied (an alternative strength or formulation, or generic or therapeutic alternative or less of the product) by community pharmacies, along with any restrictions or other points that pharmacists need to consider.

SSPs will only specify changes to specific medicines that medical experts believe to be appropriate; and pharmacists will always have the professional discretion not to supply an alternative to any individual patient.

If an SSP is issued, community pharmacy contractors must, under their Terms of Service, consider the SSP, so it is important that contractors are aware of the legislation and the new requirements.

To help contractors to do this, PSNC has issued a briefing:

PSNC Briefing 023/19: Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) – A guide for community pharmacy teams (June 2019)

This briefing explains the legislation and what pharmacies should do if an SSP is issued, including a flowchart diagram to help contractors follow the process required:

PSNC Flowchart: Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) – Dispensing and claim process steps

Funding for the consideration and implementation of SSPs by contractors is still under discussion between PSNC and DHSC.

PSNC will be holding a webinar to help contractors to understand SSPs and what they mean for pharmacies on the evening of Thursday 18th Julysign up here.

PSNC Director of Operations and Support Gordon Hockey said:

“Community pharmacies are still having to spend a considerable amount of time sourcing medicines for patients and Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) have been designed to help in the event of any future serious shortages of medicines. Although SSPs have attracted considerable attention from MPs and patient groups concerned about the impact on patients, we believe that appropriate steps to protect patients have been taken: SSPs will only be issued with the input of clinicians, and community pharmacists have the skills and knowledge to be able to judge where it is appropriate for patients to receive an alternative medicine under an SSP and to counsel patients through that change.

Although it is not possible to predict when the first SSP may be issued, we do advise that contractors work through our briefing on this topic and listen to the webinar on the 18th of July. The briefing is necessarily detailed and will ensure that contractors are familiar with what an SSP might look like; what the requirements on them are; and how they will need to endorse any prescriptions following supply through an SSP.

Medicines supply and the additional workload associated with possible SSPs are of great concern to PSNC and we are continuing our discussions with DHSC on how cost provisions should be made to fund the implementation of SSPs by pharmacies. We will provide updates on this as soon as we are able to.”

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