Joint statement on meeting regulatory standards during periods of global or national shortage of medicines

Published on 20 July 2023

We are concerned to hear that people with Type 2 diabetes are experiencing problems accessing GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs). We know that these are being widely prescribed for weight loss purposes and in some cases prescribed off-label.

We recognise the adverse impact that shortages and supply chain issues can have on patients, the public and wider health and care teams.

Meeting regulatory standards

We know that health and care professionals are using their professional judgement and making decisions in challenging situations, balancing a range of factors such as individual patient needs, wider public health and pressures and limitations on available resources such as medicines shortages or other supply chain issues.

Health and care professionals must meet relevant regulatory standards in these circumstances, and they should be able to account for their decisions. This includes acting professionally at all times and providing person-centred care, using their knowledge and experience to make evidence-based decisions.

It’s vital that health and care professionals advise on, prescribe, supply, dispense or administer medicines within the limits of their training, competence and scope of practice, regulatory standards and guidance and the law. Alongside profession-specific codes of conduct, standards and guidance, health and care professionals are also expected to take account of relevant national policy and guidance.

In this context, health and care professionals, including prescribers, are expected to take account of the RPS ‘Competency Framework for all Prescribers’ and apply this to reflect different areas of practice or situations. The framework sets out what good prescribing looks like and outlines key competencies such as the identification of evidence-based treatment options available for clinical decision making and prescribing (including prescribing medicines that are unlicensed, off-label, or outside standard practice).  

The framework highlights the need for prescribers to assess the risks and benefits to the patient of taking or not taking a medicine or treatment, and to consider the wider perspective including the public health issues related to medicines and their use and promoting health.

Specific resources

For further information about GLP-1 receptor agonist national shortage

  • National Patient Safety Alert - Shortage of GLP-1 receptor agonists (Department of Health and Social Care)
  • National Patient Safety Alert – Shortage of GLP-1 receptor agonists (Department of Health, Northern Ireland)
  • Guidance from the Primary Care Diabetes Society (PCDS) and Association of British Clinical Diabetologists (ABCD), to support clinical decision making during this period.

The statutory health and care regulators that have agreed to this statement are:

  • General Pharmaceutical Council
  • General Medical Council 
  • Health and Care Professions Council
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council

Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland

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