In November 2021 the Library produced a briefing paper on the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill (Bill 16 2021-21), a Private Members Bill introduced by Carolyn Harris MP. This briefing paper provides background on the menopause, on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), menopause awareness education and training, and support in the workplace.

Prescription charges

The Bill sought to make NHS prescription HRT free of charge in England (prescriptions are already free in the rest of the UK). During the second reading of the Bill on 29 October 2021 the Government committed to cutting the cost of repeatable HRT prescriptions for people experiencing the menopause. This would mean instead of paying for a repeat prescription every month or every three months, the prescriber would be able to issue a batch of prescriptions for up to 12 months with one signature and one prescription charge. This would result in potential savings of up to £205 per year for the individual being prescribed HRT. Additionally, under current rules HRT is sometimes classed as two medicines if it contains both oestrogen and progesterone meaning there may be two charges for each course of treatment. The Government has committed to looking into combining these two hormone treatments into one prescription (see HC Deb 29 October 2021 c539-540). Following this commitment the Bill was withdrawn (see More support for women experiencing the menopause, 29 October 2021).

In response to a PQ from Carolyn Harris on 12 April 2022, the Government said that it would deliver the HRT prescription cost reduction through a bespoke pre-payment certificate (PPC), subject to consultation with relevant professional bodies (PQ148287, Hormone Replacement Therapy: Prescriptions, 12 April 2022).

HRT shortages

Concerns have been raised about UK-wide shortages of some HRT products (see for example, BBC News, Menopause: HRT rationed amid continuing shortage in UK, 29 April 2022). On 29 April 2022 the Government announced measures to improve supply, including:

  • Issuing serious shortage protocols (SSPs) to restrict dispensing to 3 months supply of Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose.
  • Allowing pharmacists to substitute appropriate HRT products without a new prescription.
  • Appointing a new ‘HRT tsar’, to head a HRT Supply Taskforce.

On 5 May 2022, officials from the Department of Health and Social Care met with suppliers, wholesalers and representatives from community pharmacy to discuss HRT availability and how supply could be improved. On 21 May 2022 the Government said that access to HRT is now improving, with Premique Low Dose returning to good availability (see, Further action taken to improve supply of HRT, 21 May 2022).

A PQ response on 22 May said most HRT products remain in good supply, with “a limited number of products… affected by a range of factors, including an increase in demand.” The response also notes that alternatives to those products experiencing supply issues remain available (see PQ800, Hormone Replacement Therapy: Shortages, 23 May 2022).

Further reading:

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