PSNC tells MPs of impact of generics price increases on pharmacy workload

PSNC tells MPs of impact of generics price increases on pharmacy workload

July 20, 2018

PSNC has given evidence to an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into price increases in generic medicines.

The cross-party group of MPs, who scrutinise the value for money of public spending, investigated after the National Audit Office found that the NHS spent £4.3 billion on generic medicines in 2016/17.

In its written evidence to the inquiry, PSNC explained the price concessions system and highlighted the impact that the generics shortages and price rises of last year had on community pharmacies.

Highlighting the work done by community pharmacies

In an evidence session on July 4th, Mark Burdon, PSNC Regional Representative for the North East and Cumbria, told MPs on the PAC about the thousands of reports that PSNC had received about shortages. He also described the work that community pharmacies had done to ensure that no patients were harmed.

“The workload involved in sourcing medicines and communicating with GPs, patients and hospital consultants is vast,” Mr Burdon said.

During the session Mr Burdon also:

  • Described the work pharmacies had done to ensure that all patients received their medicines, including staging supplies or suggesting therapeutic switches;
  • Outlined the inconvenience that shortages could cause for patients, who were sometimes left anxious about receiving their medicines;
  • Stressed the effectiveness of community pharmacy purchasing in keeping generics prices in the UK low; and
  • Explained how community pharmacists would like to be able to do more to help patients to understand and best take their medicines.

Read PSNC’s written submission to the Public Accounts Committee

Read the transcript of the evidence session on July 4th (or watch a video of the evidence session here)

Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England evidence

The PAC also heard evidence from representatives of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and NHS England.

The DHSC described how it had responded when it began to see reports of price rises in July, stressing that although price concessions had been expensive, no patients that they were aware of had been harmed. All three organisations were hopeful that new powers allowing them better access to information from across the supply chain would help to ensure that swift action could be taken in shortage situations in the future.

Dr Bruce Warner, NHS England’s Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, told the MPs: “We have no evidence of patient harm as a result of these price increases, and I think a lot of that is due to the work, which we should acknowledge, of the whole supply chain, including the community pharmacy network, and their professionalism and diligence in putting patients first and making that patients do get their supplies.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, a member of the PAC, quoted from evidence she had received from Sunderland LPC and noted the financial squeeze that many pharmacies were facing. She asked if we could do more to make better use of pharmacies and about the potential impact of online pharmacies. DHSC agreed that they wanted pharmacies to do more in terms of health prevention and advice, noting the need to balance NHS budgets, and suggested that a mixed model, of online and ‘classic’ community pharmacies, would likely be the way forward.

The PAC is expected to publish the report of its inquiry in the autumn.

This was discussed at PSNC’s July 2018 meeting. A summary of all the topics discussed at that meeting is available here.

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