The UK’s medicines supply chain is being “severely tested” by fuel shortages according to a trade body representing drugs distributors.
The UK has faced an acute shortage of goods drivers for some time, with fuel supply issues – which may be driven to some extent by consumer panic – also receiving widespread coverage in recent days.
Concerns have been raised around how the UK’s medicines supply chain may be affected, with the National Pharmacy Association’s Gareth Jones commenting that “deliveries to some pharmacies have been reduced” with NPA members “working hard to ensure the impact on patients’ access to treatment is currently limited”.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Claire Anderson said: “As normal, pharmacists are working with patients to ensure they get the medicines they need. We’re not aware that the problems with fuel supplies are stopping patients getting their medicines.”
Commenting on the present difficulties, Healthcare Distribution Association chief executive Martin Sawer said that while wholesalers have business continuity plans to maintain medicine deliveries “these arrangements are currently being severely tested, as fuel supplies are not as available as we would like from normal sources”.
“HDA knows that some normal delivery schedules for medicines could be disrupted for most of this week, but every effort will be made to fulfil orders. HDA members are grateful for the patience and understanding being displayed by their customers.”
Mr Sawer said that to maintain an effective supply chain distributors’ transport fleets should be given priority access to fuel “principally at petrol stations”, adding that the HDA “is in urgent talks with the UK Government on this specific issue”.
Another “critical” issue is maintaining regular deliveries of medicines to wholesaler warehouses, Mr Sawer said.
Despite Mr Sawer’s warning a spokesperson for AAH told Pharmacy Network News it was not experiencing any difficulties: “AAH does not rely on forecourts to supply fuel for our medicines distribution system, so we are unaffected by current consumer buying patterns.
“In line with the current national picture for most logistics organisations, we do face challenges with driver recruitment. However, AAH is not currently facing any issues with medicines supply to our customers.”
Meanwhile, Alliance Healthcare told PNN it was “striving for business-as-usual service,” saying that despite driver shortages “we are seeing success from our continued recruitment drive”.
“The national fuel supply challenge, along with continued driver shortages, is a current challenge within the UK and we are working with all stakeholders on various initiatives to mitigate any potential impact to our normal operating schedule,” an Alliance spokesperson said.
“We continue to inform our customers proactively on this on-going situation and thank them for their patience and understanding at this time.”
Phoenix Healthcare Distribution did not respond to requests for comment.