C+D p6 N1 Jan 14



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Chasing stocks takes a month a year, staff say
EXCLUSIVE Up to a fifth of pharmacies work 26 days sourcing drugs
Melanie Hall melanie.hall@ubm.com Staff in almost one fifth of pharmacies could be wasting more than five hours per week, the equivalent of one month’s working time a year, trying to source out-ofstock medicines. Adding to the growing weight of evidence about the impact shortages are having on the sector, the C+D Stocks Survey 2011 found 95 per cent of pharmacists spend over an hour a week trying to obtain drugs, with 62 per cent saying they spend more than two hours a week on the task. More than 18 per cent of the 322 survey respondents reported taking more than five hours a week to deal with stock shortages, which equates to over 26 10-hour working days per year. The findings confirm pharmacists’ claims that supply chain problems have shown no signs of improvement in the past two years – in 2010, 89 per cent of pharmacists responding to C+D’s Stocks Survey reported spending at least an hour a week chasing medicines; while in 2009 the figure was 90 per cent. Industry leaders expressed concern that the problems were wasting pharmacists’ valuable time and warned that they were increasing workload stress as well as pressure on the NHS. “Sadly these findings do not come as a surprise,” said a Pharmacy Voice spokesperson. They said they were concerned that “precious time” was being allocated to “a frustrating medicines hunt”, and asked: “How many lifestyle interventions and medicine consultations could be delivered in the time it takes to jump through these hoops?” Numark agreed that problems in the supply chain were forcing pharmacists into an “overburdensome layer of administration”. “At a time when pharmacists are being required to do more to enhance patient compliance with prescribed medicine regimes, they are instead forced to waste precious time in sourcing products in short supply,” a spokesperson said. The shortages therefore had implications for the NHS “not simply in terms of cost, but also on the wider objectives of NHS policy”, the group warned. Charity Pharmacist Support said it believed the stress stock shortages was causing pharmacists had become a part of daily life. “The situation regarding stocks has been absorbed by pharmacists and staff, and it’s now routine, unfortunately,” said chairman David Thomson. “Anecdotally, I’ve heard of a case where it’s taking one member of staff one day a week doing nothing else but trying to secure stock on behalf of patients,” he added. Mr Thomson said the prospect of having to call up and pester suppliers was just one factor causing pharmacists stress. “It’s a difficult conversation - it brings conflict, it brings challenges,” he said. “You are not going to look forward to the exchange.” Next week in C+D Find out whether anyone still thinks the UK supply chain is fit for purpose We put your stock shortage complaints to the manufacturers Your views on the Department of Health supply chain guidance.

“I rang the manufacturers and said: ‘You signed up to the DH 24-hour guidance, so why can’t you deliver it?’ Every time they said it was exceptional circumstances, which meant the guidance was worthless.” Mike Hewitson, Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset “Stock shortages put pressure across every other service and mean we’re struggling to hit other targets, such as NMS and MURs.” Bhavesh Patel, Pharma Healthcare, Canvey Island “It can be stressful explaining to patients that it is not your fault. Their immediate reaction is that you are passing the buck. On average we are having to wait about 48 hours for medicines, but the longest was three to four working days.” Gordon Couper, Handbridge Pharmacy, Chester

• • •

Percentage of respondents 40 30 20 10

2009 2011

Less than 1 hour
Source: C+D Stocks Survey 2009 and 2011

1-2 hours

2-5 hours

More than 5 hours

Time taken to source medicines per week


October 2008

August 2009
Pharmacists report patient harm C+D’s first Stocks Survey reveals a third of pharmacists have seen patients suffer due to medicine shortages. Eighty nine per cent of respondents were “very concerned” patients would be affected.

October 2009
DH pledges action The Department of Health pledges to take action on stock shortages. The government says it will work with stakeholders to “collaboratively issue guidance”, but admits its powers are limited.

March 2010
Stock summit held A ministerial summit sees stakeholders agreeing to a range of tactics including explicit duties and inspections to ensure stocks are available. Pharmacy minister Mike O’Brien says the measures will “help to ensure NHS patients do not suffer”.

The story so far... how the stock shortages issue has developed

Supply warning AAH pharma services director Jeff Bulmer warns there could be a “catastrophic failure” of the supply chain as the pound weakens against the euro. “The industry needs to get its act in order,” he tells C+D.

6 Chemist+Druggist 14.01.12