"Lack of life-necessary medication"

About: NHS Scotland

(as the patient),

UK pensioner visiting Scotland and had to stay on an extra couple of days unexpectedly. I suffered a heart attack 3 months ago and am on 8 different drugs including some which keep my heart pumping. Registered with a local doctor to get some more medication to tide me over then spent 4 hours walking around the main areas of Edinburgh (Princes Street, the Royal Mile and the entire length of Leith Walk) trying to find a chemist who could dispense all of the items. Tried 7 different pharmacies and NOT ONE could provide everything I needed. "We can get it in" was the common refrain. So am I supposed to cross my fingers and hope for the best for 24 hours while they get their stock in?

This is not acceptable. I have a life-threatening condition and these guys are more worried about their stock levels than their customers! Just exactly what minimum levels of stock are they supposed to keep? It's a disgrace! As a result I'm in pain and I still can't get my medication until at least midday today.

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Response from Craig White, Divisional Clinical Lead, Directorate of Health Quality and Strategy, Scottish Government

picture of Craig White

Dear Edinburgh Visitor,

Thank you for using Patient Opinion to let us know about the distress and frustration you experienced as a result of various pharmacies not being able to provide you with your prescribed medication.

It is so disappointing that you experienced so much inconvenience and distress as a result of being passed from pillar to post when all of the medicines were not available at each of the pharmacies. I'm sorry you had this negative and upsetting experience. Pharmacies would usually stock all of the medicines used in the local Health Board formulary, though when these are not available should offer to order them. It sounds like they did this but because of the circumstances, waiting 24 hours was difficult for you.

The pharmacists you saw should have taken your clinical circumstances into account, including how critical the drug(s) are to your health and then advise you accordingly. Pharmacist(s) can also of course also contact other pharmacies in the area to check availability before considering other actions. You don't say if either of these things happened at any point in your contact with the 7 pharmacies you visited?

If it were me I think I would have expected phone calls to be made round pharmacies to save me having to visit so many with no certainty that any of them would be able to help. That would at least mean you did not have the added frustration of the visits to other pharmacies.

You should have been referred to a hospital if there were any concerns about the life-saving nature of the medicines that were unavailable, particularly if they were aware of and concerned about the pain that you mentioned.

If it was the same medicine that was out of stock at every pharmacy then this might indicate that the drug is in short supply locally or perhaps it is a more specialised medicine. Pharmacy colleagues I have consulted have been unable to provide me with further advice on these issues without knowing more about the specific medicines that you have been using.

If you would like me to arrange for your concerns to be reviewed further then please do not hesitate to email me at craig.white@gov.scot in order that this can be arranged. There could be significant improvements and learning from your distressing experience, which I would be pleased discuss with pharmacy colleagues.

With best regards,

Craig White

Professor Craig A White

Divisional Clinical Lead, Healthcare Quality and Strategy Directorate

NHSScotland/Scottish Government

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