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Drugs: Palliative Care

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 48549, tabled on 18 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department plans to take to ensure stocks of medicines for end of life do not run short.

Answered on

5 June 2020

As part of our concerted national efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines, including those used in end of life care. The Department is working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, the National Health Service and others in the supply chain to help ensure patients can access the medicines they need, and precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of future shortages.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have advised clinical commissioning groups to establish local hubs to ensure rapid access to anticipatory medicines. These hubs could be a community pharmacy, primary care network (general practitioner practice), community hospital, acute or other setting where palliative medicines (including controlled drugs) can be safely and legally stored and rapidly released when needed.

The Department and NHS England and NHS Improvement have published a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the use of medicines labelled for one patient, who no longer needs them, to be used by another person, in hospices and care homes. This will protect the medicine supply chain and ensure that patients can access critical medicines at end of life. The SOP can be found at the following link: