Over 50 medicines, including drugs for diabetes, asthma and schizophrenia, are currently in short supply because stock supplied for UK patients has been exported for profit.
DoH best practice guidelines say patients should be able to obtain any medicine within 24 hours of presenting a prescription to a pharmacy.
The guidelines also state that the MHRA will undertake inspections to ensure pharmacies and wholesalers involved in medicines supply take steps to prevent shortages.
GPC prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Bill Beeby said he hoped the measures would help resolve supply problems. But he warned it would be difficult to predict their full impact.
Dr Beeby said there was ‘no doubt about the determination of the DoH and MHRA’ to ensure patients can obtain the medicines that have been prescribed for them.
‘The code of practice will make it very clear to everyone in the supply chain what is expected of them,’ he said. ‘I hope it improves the situation.’
Patients unable to obtain medicines have had to return to GPs to have new prescriptions issued for products that pharmacies can obtain, he said.
Last month, pharmacy groups warned that proposed legal changes to tackle the sale of drugs overseas by preventing pharmacies sharing drug supplies could make it even harder for patients to obtain the medicines they need.
Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said that the changes could obstruct pharmacists trying to provide patients with medicines quickly and safely.