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06 Jul 2022

Foyle MLA McLaughlin calls for urgent action to address HRT shortage

Concern raised over availability of HRT medication

Concerns have been raised over the availability of HRT medication in the North

SDLP Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin, has called for urgent action from the Department of Health to address a shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products.

She urged Health Minister Robin Swann to follow the example of England, where pharmacists can swap medications without a prescription from a doctor.

Scotland is also considering the introduction of new drugs to help address the shortage.

Ms McLaughlin said: “We need to see urgent steps taken to address the shortage of HRT medication in the North and across these islands which is having a severe impact on women.

“While I appreciate the department has said they are considering the issues, what we need to see is action to get products out to people who need them before their health begins to suffer.

SDLP MLA for Foyle, Sinéad McLaughlin

“We have seen new powers being given to pharmacists in England to allow them to substitute prescriptions when there are shortages of certain products and Scotland is also considering introducing new treatments in the interim.

“I see no reason why the North can’t take similar action to ensure that we can get this medicine to people.

“I will be following this matter up directly with Health Minister Robin Swann and asking him to take the necessary steps to ensure that nobody has to deal with the stress of not being able to access HRT products.

“We cannot allow people to suffer mental strain and ill health when there are alternative options available that will help alleviate these problems.”

When contacted by The Derry News, a Department of Health spokesperson said that they were working closely with The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in England who are responsible for all UK-wide supplies – including the North.

The spokesperson said: “The Department is aware of ongoing issues affecting the supply of a small number of HRT products to patients across the UK due to various issues.

“The DHSC in England, which has responsibility for all UK medicine supplies, has previously issued advice and guidance to inform healthcare professionals across the UK regarding these supply issues and is continuing to monitor the situation by working directly with suppliers. The Department works closely with DHSC on supply issues affecting Northern Ireland and with suppliers here to monitor the situation closely.

“There are national and locally tried mitigation arrangements in place for dealing with any supply disruptions should they arise, and while a small number of HRT products may currently be temporarily unavailable, supplies of a variety of other HRT preparations continue to remain available.

“The Department has recently authorised a number of Serious Shortage Protocols which enable pharmacists to limit dispensing of prescriptions for particular HRT products in short supply to a maximum of three months’ supply. By empowering pharmacists to make this change without needing to seek authorisation from the prescriber this saves time for patients, pharmacists and prescribers and will even out distribution so more women will be able to access a share of the products covered by the SSPs until wider supply issues can be fully resolved.

“Issue of a number of additional Serious Shortage Protocols that would enable pharmacists to safely substitute high-demand products with appropriate alternatives, such as patches which are in good supply, is also under active consideration by the Department.

“Women who are experiencing difficulties in getting HRT products on prescription are advised to consult with their GP who will be able to advise them about the most appropriate alternative HRT options should this be required.”

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