Head of vaccine taskforce to use Covid lessons to tackle HRT shortage

Dr Louise Newson, Mariella Frostrup, MP Carolyn Harris, and Penny Lancaster with protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London demonstrating against prescription charges for HRT. Credit: PA

Lessons from supplying millions of Covid-19 vaccines rapidly throughout the UK will be applied to tackle the shortage in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has appointed Madelaine McTernan, director general of the Vaccine Taskforce, to lead a new HRT taskforce.

The DHSC says the taskforce will apply lessons it has learned from rolling out the coronavirus vaccine.

Ms McTernan said: “We will apply the key learnings from the successful way the Vaccine Taskforce have procured life saving vaccines during the pandemic to help ensure women have reliable ongoing access to these critical medicines.”

It comes as demand for HRT products in the UK has been increasing over the last few years due to greater menopause awareness and GP confidence in prescribing treatments.

Madelaine McTernan Credit: House of Commons

HRT can help alleviate severe menopause symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

But DHSC says the increase in demand is also one of the factors causing shortages among a small number of products, including oestrogels – ointments containing oestrogen that are rubbed into the skin.

DHSC says the HRT Taskforce will work closely with suppliers to understand what is causing the issues.

It will then develop plans for what can be done to ensure both short and long-term supply meet rising demand.

The team will also work with NHS Business Service Authority to gather data, with the aim of improving the understanding of supply and demand as well as what is driving shortages.

Meanwhile, it will engage health bodies like the Royal College of GPs and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to ensure they respond to the increased demand.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid Credit: James Manning/PA

Mr Javid said: “I understand how much women rely on HRT which is why we will leave no stone unturned to help make sure women can get the HRT they need.”

“That is why I have taken decisive action to appoint Madelaine McTernan to Head of the HRT Taskforce who will use her excellent skills and expertise to build on the success of the Vaccine Taskforce to bolster supply of vital medicines to women across the country.”

Maria Caulfield, minister for women’s health, said: “It’s great we’ve seen demand for HRT rise so much over the last year as it means women are accessing the right support.

“HRT can help women manage severe, sometimes debilitating, symptoms of the menopause, allowing them to stay in workplaces and live more normal lives.

“I want all women to feel empowered to speak to their GP about whether HRT would be appropriate for them, and for GPs to feel confident in prescribing.

“The new Taskforce will play a vital role engaging with suppliers, stakeholders and across government to make sure every avenue is explored to ensure all women who want HRT can access it.”