A mother of four infected with Streptococcus A has visited more than 25 pharmacies to find antibiotics

One mother said she was unable to get antibiotics for her four children with Strep A for about a week.

Sarah Zahra and her husband looked for medicine in more than 25 pharmacies across Kent and London for her daughter and three sons.

Ms Zahra, from Hempstead, has been caring for her eldest son Hugo, seven, since he was diagnosed with streptococcus A on 13 December.

Her other children, five-year-old Leo, and 16-month-old twins Mia and Max, also had symptoms of scarlet fever.

The family’s story began after Sarah called 111 for more than two hours describing each child’s condition, trying to get a prescription.

“All my children were prescribed amoxicillin, but we couldn’t get it anywhere, in any pharmacy near or far from us,” Sarah said.

“My husband and I called and visited over 25 pharmacies in Medway and Dartford. A friend of ours even tried a few in London and none of them were in stock.”

Ms. Zahra was able to find the medicine this week, and her children were starting to feel better, but until then she worried their health would deteriorate further.

She said: “Not having access to these antibiotics was worrying for me.

“My twins had really red rashes on their faces, which is a sign of scarlet fever. Their throats were also sore, and they were really nervous and had a loss of appetite.

“I really appreciate that we have four kids, so obviously we need four sets, which is harder, but we haven’t been able to get any at all.

“This whole situation is really concerning. I don’t think people know how complicated it really is.

“You would expect to just get a prescription and go and get it. But none of the pharmacists are in stock.

“I’ve had people from my work and friends commute with me, and my husband driving across Kent to try and find something for our kids.

“It worries me that other parents may not know there is a deficiency. It was very scary, especially if your kids are in really bad shape. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Doctors and pharmacists in Kent say they are concerned they cannot get access to key medicines to treat the viral infection, which has killed 15 children in the UK since September.

The problem has worsened in the past two weeks as more and more anxious parents insist on prescriptions, in some cases not necessary, for young children.

Pharmaceutical companies have been accused of raising prices, with pharmacists saying they were left with money because they could only recover a fraction of the bill from the NHS.

Both Dr Julian Spinks, who runs the surgeries at Medway, and consultant pharmacist Sunil Kochhar, who is based in Gravesend, have both struggled with not having enough antibiotics to meet demand.

frustration with the government

They said they were frustrated that the government insists there are no shortages and that wholesalers blame any shortages on the unprecedented rise in demand.

Dr Spinks said: “We’ve been told there’s no shortage nationally but that’s not what’s happening locally. Parents are worried about sore throats and Strep A. The increase in calls is out of proportion to the demand.”

He gets up every day at 6am to see what’s available and what stores are around to check for any stock.

He said: “We’re concerned about parents criticizing our team, which is understandable, because they’re concerned about what they hear about Strep A.

“But we’re caught in the middle. Some people think we’re holding back from giving drugs. It’s a vicious cycle.”

He also criticized the government for spreading “conflicting messages,” saying, “If there are enough antibiotics, we don’t see them.”

Mr Kochhar said: “Strep A has been around for a decade and has not changed. It is the epidemic that has changed with children being isolated and not socialized in the classroom.

“And with the cost-of-living crisis meaning some don’t keep warm, the cold takes a toll on the immune system.”

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