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Parents report struggle to find antibiotics as UK strep A cases rise

People tell of distress and panic, adding to concerns about shortage despite government’s assurances

Parents are reporting serious difficulties in obtaining antibiotics for their sick children, amid concerns over UK-wide shortages after rising strep A infections.

While the government has maintained there are sufficient supplies of penicillin and amoxicillin, pharmacists and GPs around the country have reported they are struggling to get hold of supplies.

Now parents have had to visit a string of pharmacies to secure them.

Tif Dickinson, from Plymouth, said she faced a distressing experience when trying to get hold of antibiotics for her 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with strep A on Wednesday.

“I was surprised when I called the first pharmacy who advised me that there were no antibiotics available and they weren’t expecting to have any stock in until January,” she said.

“The pharmacist advised me to try an independent pharmacy down the road. [It was the] same story and this time not even sure if they would see a bottle of antibiotics. I sat in the car with my poorly child and systematically started to ring every pharmacy in the city.”

On the sixth attempt Dickinson managed to locate one bottle of antibiotics – but the prescribed course of treatment called for two. “We may have to resign ourselves to feeling lucky that we’ve received half a course of treatment rather than none at all,” she said. “We decided to just go with at least getting a dose that day so that she felt less dreadful.”

She added: “I count myself lucky that we did find even half a dose really, but it just feels like we shouldn’t have to do those things just to get basic treatments.”

Laila from Stockport also had difficulties this week sourcing antibiotics prescribed for her twins, one of whom was very sick. She initially tried two pharmacies, both of which had no stock of amoxycillin.

“I panicked as I had to get treatment for at least the more poorly twin and they could share until I could find a pharmacy that is able to do me another bottle,” she said.

Unwell herself, and with the evening approaching, Laila began ringing around pharmacies trying to find the medication. Eventually she tracked some down – but only had one bottle.

“I asked if I could maybe come back next day to pick up the other bottle. She said they have no idea when they will get another delivery as there is a shortage from the suppliers,” said Laila.

Meanwhile, a four-year-old girl who has been in a critical condition with strep A is said to be getting better.

Camila Rose Burns was taken to Liverpool’s Alder Hey children’s hospital on 28 November after developing the infection and was placed on a ventilator.

But on Friday her grandmother Dawn Burns said the child was improving.

“She was on absolutely tons of support meds, ventilator, dialysis etc. But slowly and surely, she managed to pull it round,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

On Thursday the UK Health Security Agency said 15 children under the age of 15 had died from invasive strep A infections in the UK since September.

Prof Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said parents who were worried about their children should not be discouraged from seeking medical attention. However, better public health messaging is needed around strep A, with many GPs surgeries finding it difficult to cope with an increase in demand on top of existing pressures.

Hawthorne called for the government to introduce overspill services to support struggling GP practices.

She added: “GPs are highly trained consultants in family medicine who are being particularly vigilant in looking for serious, invasive cases of group A streptococcal infections. Early identification and treatment are key, but it’s vital that we are available for those patients who really need to see us, so we ask the public and the media to act responsibly while we do our best to control and treat serious cases of these infections.”

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