A mother said she was unable to get antibiotics for her four children suffering with Strep A for nearly a week.
Sarah Zahra and her husband looked for medication in more than 25 pharmacies across Kent and London for her daughter and three sons.
Ms Zahra, from Hempstead, had been taking care of her eldest son Hugo, seven, since he was diagnosed with Strep A on December 13.
Her other children, five-year-old Leo, and twins Mia and Max, 16 months, were also experiencing scarlet fever symptoms.
The family’s saga began after Sarah was on the phone to 111 for more than two hours describing every single child’s condition, in a bid to get a prescription.
“All my children had been prescribed amoxicillin but we couldn’t get hold of it anywhere, in any pharmacy near or away from us,” Sarah said.
“My husband and I phoned and visited more than 25 pharmacies in Medway and Dartford. A friend of ours even tried a few in London and none had it in stock.”
Ms Zahra managed to find the medication this week, and her children are starting to feel better, but until then she was worried their health would deteriorate further.
She said: “To not be getting these antibiotics was really concerning for me.
“My twins had really red rashes on their faces, which is a sign of scarlet fever. Their throats were also sore, they were really irritable and had loss of appetite.
“I do appreciate that we do have four children, so obviously we need four lots, which is harder, but we weren’t able to get any at all.
“This entire situation is really worrying. I don’t think people know how complicated it really is.
“You expect to just get a prescription and go and get it. But none of the pharmacists have anything in stock.
“I’ve had people from my work and friends ringing round and my husband driving across Kent to try and find something for our children.
“It worries me that other parents might not know there’s a shortage. It was very scary, especially if your children are really poorly. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Doctors and pharmacists in Kent say they are concerned they are unable to get hold of key drugs for treating the viral infection, which has claimed the lives of 15 children in the UK since September.
The problem has been exacerbated in the last two weeks as an increasing number of worried parents are insisting on prescriptions, in some cases not needed, for youngsters.
And drug companies have been accused of hiking prices with pharmacists saying they are left out of pocket as they can only recoup a fraction of the bill back from the NHS.
Dr Julian Spinks, who runs surgeries across Medway, and consultant pharmacist Sunil Kochhar, based in Gravesend, have both been faced with not having enough antibiotics to meet demand.
Frustration at the Government
They are frustrated the Government is insisting there is no shortage and wholesalers blaming any shortfall on an unprecedented spike in demand, they said.
Dr Spinks said: “We have been told that nationally there is not a shortage but that’s not what’s happening locally. Parents are worried about sore throat infections and Strep A. The increase in calls can’t match demand.”
Each day he gets up at 6am to see what is available and shops around to check any stock.
He said: “We are getting anxious parents lashing out at our team, understandably, as they are worried about what they are hearing about Strep A.
“But we are stuck in the middle. Some think we’re holding back on giving drugs. It’s a vicious circle.”
He has also criticised the Government for giving out “mixed messages”, saying: “If there are enough antibiotics, we are not seeing them.”
Mr Kochhar said: “Strep A has been around for a decade and has not changed. It’s the pandemic which has changed with children isolating and not mixing socially in the classroom.
“And with the cost of living crisis meaning some are not putting heating on, being cold affects the immune system.”