MPs warn of NHS medicine shortages

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Patients are suffering because of a shortage of some NHS prescription medicines, a Parliamentary group has warned.

Medicine shortages are having an “adverse” impact on patients, including vulnerable groups such as those with mental health problems, the All-Party Pharmacy Group said.

In a report detailing its inquiry into medicine shortages, the group said the shortages had been mainly caused by the export of medicines intended for the UK market to other EU countries.

This exporting is conducted by speculators and is legal under EU and UK law, the report noted.

Highly qualified pharmacists are having to spend time locating medicines in short supply, the MPs noted.

But in spite of the best efforts of pharmacists, the group said it had been told of cases involving vulnerable patients not receiving the medicine they need because of shortages.

These included patients with mental health problems, epilepsy sufferers, diabetics, and even pregnant women in need of medicine to stabilise their pregnancy.

“Evidence we received highlights the stress, anxiety and sometimes harm that patients suffer,” the MPs said in their report.

The group warned that the UK has been experiencing shortages of NHS prescription medicines for four years.

“Throughout this inquiry we have seen evidence that patients are suffering and that pharmacists’ time and resources are being diverted away from patient care as a result of medicines being in short supply.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The very least patients should be able to expect is for prescribed medicines to be available to them when required.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We monitor medicines supply closely and we continue to work closely with representatives of the medicines supply chain to ensure that NHS patients receive the medicines they need.

“We will carefully consider the recommendations the All-Party Group make in their report.”