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Not for the first time in the past 12 months, the UK is short on supplies of medication as pharmacies begin to report shortages of cold and flu medicines for children. The shortage comes in the middle of a wider health crisis for the country as the entire health system feels the strain of a tough winter. Pharmacies have said these latest shortages could last for months.

Pharmacists have said they are running out of basic cold and flu medication as well as antibiotics at a time when children are soon to return to school and face a higher risk of either infection or spreading common winter illnesses.

As a result, experts predict that viruses will now run wild through children in the UK as parents find themselves unable to find the medications necessary to treat these common illnesses.

Speaking to the Sun, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies’ Leyla Hannabeck said: “As a pharmacist and as a mum, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the situation will improve.

“Pharmacies all over the country are struggling to get these medicines, it’s a national issue.”

Pharmacists have felt greater ire during this period due to the Government’s approach to the situation, one they say was a case of “being in denial”.

That is according to pharmacy leaders who have accused the government of a “lack of planning”.

Leyla Hannbeck told the PA news agency why demand had been higher in recent months: “The demand has been high because this season we’ve seen higher cases of colds and flu and people are obviously trying very hard to look after themselves and making sure that they use the relevant products to manage the symptoms.

“And that has led to a shortage of these products in terms of us not being able to obtain them.”

She added: “Unfortunately part of that is a lack of planning by officials in terms of foreseeing the problems and trying to plan in advance to sort it.

“With cold and flu, we knew some months ago cases were going up and it was anticipated that there would be higher demand for these products. So you would have thought that plans would have been in place in terms of managing this with regards to liaising with manufacturers and getting the products in.”

The lack of basic cold and flu medicines is having an adverse impact on the NHS. 

A spokesperson for Boots said: “General availability of cough and cold relief at our stores across the UK is good, and enough to meet current demand. There may be temporary shortages in some stores of a particular brand, eg Lemsip, but there will almost always be suitable alternatives available.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care added: “We are aware of reports of issues with the availability of some branded cold and flu medicines.

“These appear to be temporary and localised, but we are engaging with suppliers to investigate and help ensure that over-the-counter cold and flu medicines remain available.”

While the situation may not be entirely cataclysmic, it continues a pattern of medicine shortages faced by the UK in the past 12 months.

Since 2022, the UK has faced shortages of diabetes medication, HRT, and antibiotics.

Some of this is down to sheer demand, but some of it is down to a lack of planning, and delays in getting the medication into the country.

While the UK has been able to deal with each shortage so far, the shortages in question have had wider health impacts for patients up and down the country.

The concern is that if these worsen, more patients will have to take alternatives to the medication they need.

Worse, some patients may need hospital treatment, putting more pressure on the NHS and the UK’s overall health system.

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