Pharmacies have called on the public to only buy medicines they need now to avoid “creating difficulties” for others, following stockpiling in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), which represents independent community pharmacy professionals, said providers were doing everything possible to maintain the supply of medicines.
Although there are currently sufficient medicines to meet demand in the UK, there has been an increase in demand for all types of product.
This could lead to longer waiting times while pharmacy staff process prescriptions, the NPA warned in a statement.
“In most cases, pharmacies are currently able to meet need in a timely fashion, even if that means limiting the quantity of certain medicines sold to each customer,” Mr Lyonette said.
“Certain products, for example, hand sanitisers, paracetamol and thermometers, are only intermittently available.
“Please only buy the medicines you need now for you and your family; this will help to avoid creating difficulties for others, so that everyone in your community gets the medicines they need.
“There is no overall shortage of prescription medicines, but the current exceptionally high demand means that it may take longer than you are used to for pharmacy staff to process prescriptions.”
Meanwhile, online pharmacies have had to limit orders or stop them altogether as they grapple with an “unprecedented” demand for their products.
The LloydsPharmacy website said they had temporarily paused online orders until March 30, as they deal with a high volume of demand for pharmacy products.
It asked customers to buy products “only as and when needed” to “ensure pharmacies can continue to provide care for everyone over the coming months”.
Echo Pharmacy, a repeat prescription service by LloydsPharmacy, said in a message to customers it could take 72 hours longer than normal for their prescription to arrive.
During the #Covid19 pandemic we are in close contact with pharmacy organisations to ensure we understand what is happening on the ground and what more we can do to support pharmacy owners and professionals. Read the latest >> https://t.co/K55en9JJtS— GPhC (@TheGPhC) March 23, 2020
The chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council said that pharmacy professionals were working under “significant pressure” during the coronavirus crisis.
Duncan Rudkin said there had been increasing numbers of reports that staff had been experiencing “abuse, disorder and even violence” from members of the public.
“Abuse of pharmacy staff is never acceptable,” he said in a statement.
“Pharmacy is a key part of the national response and its workforce are entitled to be treated with the same respect as other key healthcare professionals.
“This is an especially challenging time for the pharmacy profession and we condemn any abuse.”