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What do I do if I have run out of my NHS prescription medication

What do I do if I have run out of my NHS prescription medication

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 26 Jan 2024

Running out of your NHS prescription medication can be a stressful situation. Fortunately, there are several options available to ensure you can obtain the medication you need promptly. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the steps you can take to get your prescription filled, even when facing challenges such as closed GP surgeries or limited access to healthcare professionals. Whether you need a regular prescription refill or find yourself in need of an emergency supply, we’ve got you covered.

Visiting your local community pharmacy

One of the first and most convenient options for obtaining your prescription is to visit a local community pharmacy. In many cases, you may have already agreed with your GP practice to have your prescription sent directly to a specific pharmacy. If this is the case, it is advisable to check with the pharmacy of your choice to inquire about the time it will take for them to have your prescription ready for collection. Alternatively, if you already have your prescription in hand, you can take it to any community pharmacy of your choosing. At the pharmacy, you will either have to wait for the prescription to be dispensed or return later to pick it up.

What to do if you run out of medicine

If you run out of your prescribed medication, there are several steps you can take to ensure you have access to the medicine you need. If your local community pharmacy or GP practice is open, it is recommended to speak to the pharmacist or your GP. A community pharmacist may be able to issue an emergency prescription at the request of the prescriber. In most cases, they will be able to provide you with a temporary supply until you can organise another prescription.

If you run out of medicine outside of your GP surgery’s normal opening hours you can still seek assistance from a pharmacist at your nearest pharmacy. They may be able to supply you with out-of-hours medicines. Additionally, if you have a hospital discharge prescription or letter but are unable to visit your GP practice, speaking to a community pharmacist can provide you with the guidance and assistance you need.

Planning for GP practice and pharmacy closures

It’s important to be aware that GP practices and community pharmacies may have periods of closure, such as during Easter, Christmas and Bank Holidays. To avoid any disruptions in your medication supply, it is essential to make sure you have enough medicine to cover you during these periods. This can help you avoid potential stress and ensure that you have the necessary medication on hand when you need it.

Emergency supply of medication

In situations where you have completely run out of your regular medication and require an emergency supply, there are options available to ensure you receive the necessary treatment. Collecting your prescription from your community pharmacy is one such option. You can visit the pharmacy and have someone collect the medicine on your behalf, as long as you have given them consent or requested their assistance. The person collecting your medicine will be required to sign the back of the prescription form, pay any prescription charges if no exemption and confirm certain details, including your name, address, and date of birth.

It is important to note that stricter controls apply if the medicine is a controlled drug, such as morphine. If someone else is collecting a controlled drug on your behalf, they will be asked to provide proof of their identity, and the pharmacist may also contact you to confirm that someone else is collecting your medication.

Reordering a repeat prescription

If you require repeat medication and would like to routinely reorder your prescription, your GP practice is the best resource to provide you with advice on how to proceed. They can guide you on the steps to take and any available options for reordering your prescription. Additionally, your local community pharmacist can offer assistance and advice on the process of reordering your prescription. They can inform you if a repeat prescription collection service is available, simplifying the process and ensuring you receive your medication without any disruptions.

Seeking further information and advice

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your prescription, there are several avenues you can explore to obtain further information. One option is to call NHS 111 and speak to a healthcare professional, who can address any uncertainties or doubts you may have. Additionally, checking the leaflet that comes with your medication can provide valuable insights and guidance. If you prefer, you can walk in to a community pharmacy that can offer their expertise and answer any questions you may have.

Understanding Prescriptions and Treatment Options

Prescriptions are typically issued by doctors, but other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, pharmacist independent prescribers, dentists, and physiotherapists, can also prescribe prescription medicines. When you have an appointment with a healthcare professional, they will typically inquire about your symptoms, conduct any necessary examinations or tests, and use this information to determine the best course of treatment.

If you require a prescription, your healthcare professional will discuss your options with you and take into consideration your preferences and priorities. They will guide you in selecting the most appropriate medication for your symptoms and advise you on the optimal dosage. The benefits and potential risks of treatment will be explained, allowing you to make an informed decision regarding your care and treatment. In most cases, the healthcare professional will choose a medication listed in your health board’s local formulary, which is a list of approved medications.

Safely taking your prescription

Once you receive your prescription, a healthcare professional will provide instructions on how to take the medication safely. They will explain the name of the medicine, its purpose, the recommended dosage, and any potential side effects to be aware of. If applicable, they will also advise you on whether you can discontinue any other medications you may be taking.

Following the advice you receive regarding the safe use of your prescription is crucial. This will ensure that you take the medication correctly and derive the maximum benefit from it. It is important to understand that taking your prescription as prescribed can help treat long-term conditions, infections, and pain, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of early death. Some medications may be prescribed for a short period, such as antibiotics for an infection, while others may be required for a longer duration, even if you do not have symptoms. Occasionally, it may be necessary to try different medications to find the most effective one for your specific needs.


Running out of your NHS prescription medication can be a challenging situation, but there are numerous options available to ensure you can obtain the necessary treatment. By visiting your local pharmacy, planning for closures, and utilising online services, you can effectively address the issue of running out of medication. Additionally, understanding how to take your prescription safely, being aware of the risks associated with medications, and properly disposing of unused medications are all essential aspects of responsible medication management. By following these guidelines and working closely with your healthcare professional, you can ensure that you have access to the medication you need when you need it, promoting your well-being and overall health.


Medical Disclaimer

NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information on this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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