Vaccine Taskforce boss drafted in to deal with HRT crisis

Madelaine McTernan will focus on resolving supply-chain issues affecting some products
Photo: Ged Carroll/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

By Jim Dunton

03 May 2022

The Department of Health and Social Care has put Vaccine Taskforce director general Madelaine McTernan in charge of a new unit set up to fix supply-chain problems with hormone replacement therapy products.

On Friday DHSC announced it had put “serious shortage protocols” in place that would ration the supply of three HRT treatments – Oestrogel, Ovestin cream and Premique Low Dose – to three months, in a move aimed at ensuring women across the UK have better access to the products.

The measure means pharmacists will only dispense three months’ supply of the products, regardless of how many months a prescription requests.

Announcing McTernan’s appointment as temporary head of the newly-formed HRT taskforce, health secretary Sajid Javid said he expected her to leverage lessons learned from the UK’s successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Javid said McTernan would work closely with suppliers to understand constraints and develop plans for what can be done to ensure both short and long-term supply meets rising demand for HRT, said by DHSC to have increased by 38% over the last seven years.

The new taskforce will also work with the NHS Business Services Authority to get real-time data to improve understanding of what is driving shortages and engage with professional bodies to ensure they respond appropriately to increased demand.

“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,” Javid said.

“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.”

McTernan pledged to “apply the key learnings” from the Vaccine Taskforce to ensuring women have “reliable ongoing access” to critical HRT medicines.

DHSC said there were more than 70 HRT products available in the UK, and that most were in good supply.

It added that McTernan would remain director general for the Vaccine Taskforce while she was “primarily focused on HRT supply for the short term”.

The Vaccine Taskforce is a joint unit set up between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and DHSC, however DHSC said it would retain responsibility for HRT policy and delivery.

McTernan is a former investment banker who became a director of UK Government Investments in 2017. She worked for a decade Credit Suisse and also previously worked for collapsed financial services firm Lehman Brothers.

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