New regulations to deal with possible drugs and medical supply shortages

(Title Image: Independent)

The Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), recently introduced regulations to manage possible medical supply shortages in Wales ahead of Brexit (pdf; explanatory memorandum – pdf).

Although similar regulations have been introduced at UK level for prescription-only medicines, the Welsh regulations will enable the Welsh Government to enact a Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP) if Wales experiences a shortage of medical appliances or non-prescription-only drugs as well – some of which are imported from the EU.

Once an SSP has been issued, “alternative arrangements” will be made for the supply of affected equipment and medicines. The regulations will allow pharmacists or NHS contractors to supply a different product (with a similar function) or effectively ration supplies.

Prescriptions subject to an SSP order will need to have a note attached, while GPs will have to be told if a patient’s prescription can’t be fulfilled, or if a product with a similar therapeutic benefit as that originally requested on the prescription has been dispensed instead.

The regulations will also ensure pharmacists and NHS contractors don’t breach the NHS terms of service if they have to delay dispensing prescription drugs or equipment subject to an SSP. If they can’t dispense a prescription at all, they’ll need to refer the patient back to the prescriber.

As the regulations were introduced under the negative procedure, they’ll automatically come into force on October 31st 2019 unless the Senedd votes to annul them.