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What is an emergency supply of medication NHS?

What is an emergency supply of medication NHS?

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Medically reviewed by Navin Khosla, BPharm and written by Rajive Patel, BPharm - Updated on 26 Jan 2024
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Table of contents
OverviewUnderstanding the NHS Emergency Supply ServiceEligibility criteria for the Emergency Supply Service from a community pharmacyRequesting an Emergency SupplyOther waysLimitations of the Emergency Supply ServiceThe legal authority for Emergency SupplyMedications available for Emergency SupplyProcedure for Emergency SupplyDocumentation and record-keepingPayment and prescription chargesCommissioning the Emergency Supply ServiceQuality indicators and auditingConclusionSources

In times of urgent need, ensuring access to essential medications is crucial for patients who rely on repeat medication. If you run out of medicine outside of your GP surgery’s normal opening hours and need some urgently the NHS offers an emergency supply service. It allows individuals to request a limited supply of medication from their local pharmacy when they have completely run out and are unable to obtain a prescription in time. This service aims to provide timely access to prescription-only medicines, giving patients peace of mind during emergencies. In this article, we will explore the details of the emergency supply service offered by the NHS, its eligibility criteria, how to request it, and other important considerations.

Understanding the NHS Emergency Supply Service

The NHS Emergency Supply Service is designed to assist patients who find themselves in urgent need of their regular prescription medications. This service ensures that individuals who have completely run out of their prescribed medicines, lost or damaged them, or left them behind can still obtain the necessary supply without delay. The service is available for prescription-only medicines that are obtained through repeat prescriptions.

Eligibility criteria for the Emergency Supply Service from a community pharmacy

To be eligible for the NHS Emergency Supply Service, patients must meet certain criteria. Firstly, the medicine in question must be a prescription-only medication obtained through repeat prescriptions. Secondly, patients must have completely run out of the medication and have an urgent need for it. The pharmacist will ask you:

  • Who previously prescribed the medicine to you
  • What medicine and dose of the medicine you take

It’s important to note that this service is not available for antibiotics for new or recent problems or controlled drugs that require identification to collect.

Requesting an Emergency Supply

Patients who meet the eligibility criteria can request an emergency supply of a medicine through the NHS Emergency Supply Service. To do so, they can use the designated pharmacy service, which will charge them their usual prescription fee. However, if the patient does not usually pay for prescriptions, the emergency supply will be provided free of charge. You can use the NHS pharmacy service search to find nearby pharmacies and their opening hours.

Other ways

In case of a hearing problem or if assistance is needed in other languages, patients can contact NHS 111 through alternative methods. The NHS provides additional channels for individuals with specific needs to access the emergency supply service. These alternative methods ensure that everyone can receive the necessary assistance and support in urgent situations.

Limitations of the Emergency Supply Service

While the NHS Emergency Supply Service provides a valuable resource for patients in urgent need, there are certain limitations to be aware of. This service cannot be used to obtain antibiotics for new or recent problems or controlled drugs that require identification to collect. It is essential to understand the scope of the service and its restrictions to ensure the appropriate use of this resource.

The legal authority for a pharmacist to supply prescription-only medicines in an emergency is outlined in The Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997. This order sets out the conditions under which pharmacists may supply medication without a prescription in urgent situations. The NHS provisions that authorise urgent supply without a prescription are also detailed in the NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2005 and the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997.

Medications available for Emergency Supply

The emergency supply provisions permit the supply of most prescription-only medicines for up to 30 days of treatment. However, there are exceptions for inhalers and creams/ointments, where a manufacturer’s pack can be supplied. It’s important to note that controlled drugs listed in Schedule 1, 2, or 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 or substances listed in Schedule 4 of The Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997 cannot be supplied through the emergency supply service.

Procedure for Emergency Supply

When a patient requests an emergency supply of medicines, the community pharmacist will assess the urgency of the situation and determine if a supply is necessary. The pharmacist will interview the patient to identify the medicine needed and the nature of the emergency. They will also examine the patient’s medication record to ensure that the last supply was obtained from their pharmacy against a prescription. If necessary, the pharmacist may contact the last supplying pharmacy or the prescriber to avoid successive emergency supplies.

Documentation and record-keeping

To ensure proper documentation and record-keeping, the pharmacist will maintain records of the emergency supply, including the patient’s name and address, the medicine supplied, the date of the supply, and the nature of the emergency. These records will comply with the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997 requirements. Additionally, a copy of the record will be sent to the patient’s general practitioner for their information.

Payment and prescription charges

The emergency supply of medication through the NHS Emergency Supply Service is subject to prescription charges. Patients who are required to pay for prescriptions will be charged the usual prescription fee. However, patients who are exempt from prescription charges must provide a signed declaration confirming their exemption. It is important to adhere to the payment guidelines to ensure the appropriate funding of the service.

Commissioning the Emergency Supply Service

The NHS Emergency Supply Service may be commissioned for specific periods, such as during a pandemic or throughout the year. The commissioning CCG (Clinical commissioning groups) may also determine the service’s availability during certain times of the day, such as out-of-hours periods. It is essential to establish clear guidelines for the service’s implementation and inform relevant healthcare professionals and stakeholders to ensure seamless service provision.

Quality indicators and auditing

To maintain the quality of the emergency supply service, pharmacists should review their standard operating procedures and referral pathways annually. They should also ensure that pharmacists involved in the provision of the service have relevant knowledge and operate within local protocols. Participating in CCG-organised audits and assessments of service provision can provide valuable insights for improvement and ensure the best possible patient experience.


In conclusion, the NHS Emergency Supply Service plays a vital role in ensuring timely access to prescription-only medicines in emergencies. By following the established guidelines and procedures, patients can obtain the necessary medication when they have completely run out and cannot obtain an NHS prescription in time. Patients need to understand the eligibility criteria and limitations of the service to ensure appropriate use. It is important to note this service is for urgent needs only. Always remember to order repeat medication from your GP practice in a timely manner so that you never run out. Taking note of GP hours of opening around Bank holidays, Christmas and Easter is useful.

The emergency supply NHS service serves as a valuable resource, providing peace of mind and ensuring continuity of care for patients in urgent need of their regular medications.


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 in 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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