The Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP) gives pharmacists additional powers to alter prescriptions in the event of a serious shortage of a particular medicine.
The purpose of this change is to reduce the impact on patients of medicine shortages, such as may be the case in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It was bought in by the UK government as a change to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 and became law in February 2019.
Generally, prescription only medicines may be sold or supplied only in accordance with a prescription issued by an appropriate practitioner, such as a GP. SSPs are an exemption. 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.
It is important to note that although legislation permits the issuing of SSPs from 1st July 2019, an SSP will only be considered and issued if there is a serious shortage of a specific medicine. If, in the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care's opinion, there is, or may be a serious shortage of medicine or appliance then he or she may consult, for instance with medical experts and decide to issue an SSP.
The SSP 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. Community pharmacy contractors must consider the SSP and, if, in the supervising pharmacist’s opinion – exercising his or her professional skill and judgment – the alternative product or quantity is reasonable and appropriate for the patient, they may supply the alternative product or quantity (only as specified in the SSP and subject to any conditions in the SSP), provided that the patient consents/agrees to the alternative SSP supply.
The dispensed SSP product must be labelled to show that supply has been made in accordance with the SSP and identify the SSP (usually by its number) and the prescriber of the original product (that has not been dispensed) may need to be notified. For reimbursement and remuneration, the appropriate endorsement must be made as provided for in the Drug Tariff and, following the supply of the alternative product or quantity, the prescription (in relation to which the SSP supply was made) is no longer valid.
To view if any SSP have been granted visit the NHS BSA page here.
Note - The use of a No Cheaper Stock Obtainable (NCSO) status was last granted in April 2013 and therefore the NCSO endorsement should not be currently used. The use of the NCSO endorsement is not a valid endorsement for a price concession, these will be automatically handled by the NHSBSA. The NCSO endorsement will be used to indicate the dispensing of a Serious Shortages Protocol (SSP) item.
In support of this new legislation, Cegedim Rx is pleased to publish user guides for both Pharmacy Manager and Nexphase, to support our users and provide guidance on how to dispense a prescription, endorse and claim within your PMR, when it is subject to an SSP.