The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has reported improved Oestrogel supply, according to the most recent update from the HRT taskforce, although HRT products are still in short supply.
The DHSC said the number of packs of Oestrogel delivered to the UK in July was double the monthly average for the first quarter this year, adding that additional stock of HRT products in short supply had been secured and delivered ‘following positive engagement across the supply chain’.
However, it also confirmed to Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist that the HRT taskforce will be disbanded, with the head of the taskforce Madelaine McTernan returning to her role as director general of the vaccine taskforce ahead of autumn booster campaigns.
The DHSC and the UK-wide menopause taskforce are now responsible for carrying out recommendations to tackle shortages, it added.
However, critics have stressed that HRT shortages have not been solved, and that more help is needed.
The update also confirmed that the Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) issued for some HRT products – Oestrogel, Ovestin, Lenzetto and Sandrena – have been extended until 28 October, limiting dispensing to three months’ supply as suppliers build capacity to keep up with demand.
The taskforce also called for improved access to data on prescriptions, so that shortfalls between HRT packs prescribed and HRT packs supplied by manufacturers could be more easily identified.
Recommendations also included continued dialogue across the industry through regular industry roundtables and individual engagement, as well as continued assessment whether NHS formularies may be impacting access to HRT.
However, Mariella Frostrup, chair of campaign group Menopause Mandate, described the update as ‘more hot air’ and ‘continuing consultations rather than real progress’.
‘The HRT shortages continue, despite assurances that they’re being solved. Doubling the amount of Oestrogel available isn’t going to solve the problem, particularly when the amount of women relying on HRT has also doubled,’ she added.
Carolyn Harris MP, whose Private Members’ Bill last year led to the formation of the Menopause Task Force, described the barriers to HRT access as ‘unacceptable’.
‘We are still seeing stock shortages on a number of products and we have pharmacies unaware of, or unable to navigate, the Serious Shortage Protocols brought in to tackle the issue.
‘This, alongside the eighteen month wait for the implementation of the Single Annual Prepayment Certificate for HRT for women in England, is unacceptable and for the Government to overlook the continuing difficulties that women are facing in accessing treatment is both short-sighted and inexcusable,’ she said.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘Women’s health is a priority for this government, and we are ensuring everyone who needs HRT is able to access it. Madelaine’s work and that of her taskforce and the department has been vital, and her recommendations will ensure progress in HRT supply continues.’
GPs need mandatory menopause training and targeted communications around the HRT scheme, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has said.
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist