If you are prescribed medication, take the time to fully understand how and when to take it and ask about side-effects. Your pharmacist can help clarify this further.
Your GP will only prescribe drugs they feel are needed to help you with your health issue and cannot just prescribe drugs which you personally feel are needed. At times, the GP may decide that your condition may improve without the use of drugs, for example change of diet or bed rest.
All drugs that are paid for by the NHS are listed under The Drug Tariff. Some exceptions are made depending on the individual’s circumstances and a doctor can write you a private prescription if they feel it is appropriate. A doctor will sign your prescription and that doctor will carry the legal responsibility for it.
If you wish to understand more about the medicines you are being prescribed there are a number of people you can talk to as well as your GP:
- The pharmacist
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- Medicine manufacturer (medical information department)
- Health charities
- Patient organisations
By law all medicines should come with a leaflet which details how the medicine will help with your condition, any side-effects and things to look out for. The information may change as new things are learnt so you should read it each time you receive your medicine.
The leaflets do list almost all of the side effects ever experienced by any patients whilst taking the drug. If you are concerned about the things that you read speak to your GP, as it may be that the risks in the leaflet do not apply to you.
Paying for prescriptions
In England prescriptions are charged by the item. In Northern Ireland and Scotland all prescriptions are free with prescription charges removed in Scotland in April 2011. You are entitled to free prescriptions in Wales if you are:
- a patient registered with a Welsh GP, who gets your prescription from a Welsh pharmacy
- a Welsh patient who has an English GP and an entitlement card, and you get your prescriptions from a Welsh pharmacy
If you are likely to pay for four or more prescriptions in three months or 15 or more items within 12 months then you could save money by purchasing a Pre-Payment Certificate (PPC). A PPC, which is available to NHS patients in England, covers all of your own NHS prescriptions no matter how many items you need. A PPC may be purchased online at: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/1127.aspx
A quick guide to prescription exemptions in England
NHS prescriptions in England are normally charged at a specific fee for each item. However, many people are exempt from paying these prescription charges. If, at the time you have your prescription dispensed you fall into one of the groups below, then you should be exempt from any charges:
- You are under 16 years of age
- You are aged 16 to 18 years and in full-time education
- You are aged over 19 years and in full time education on a low income (a reimbursement can be sought by completing an application form)
- You are aged 60 years or over
- You are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid exemption certificate
- You have a specified medical condition and have a valid exemption certificate
- You have a continuing physical disability which means you cannot go out without help from another person and have a valid exemption certificate
- You are receiving treatment for cancer
- You are getting or your partner gets:
- Income support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- You are named on a valid HC2 certificate
- You are a war pensioner, the prescription is for your accepted disablement and you have a valid war pension exemption certificate
There are also some additional situations in which medicines are supplied free of charge:
- Prescribed contraceptives
- Medication administered at a hospital or an NHS walk-in centre
- Medication personally administered by a GP
- Medication supplied at a hospital or clinic for the treatment of a sexually transmissible infection
You are entitled to a repeat prescription if your GP regards it as clinically appropriate. This is particularly relevant to those with long-term conditions. Each repeatable prescription will detail how many times the medication can be prescribed on that particular prescription. From time to time you may be asked to visit the practice for a prescription review prior to them issuing further repeat prescriptions.
The repeat dispensing scheme, or batch prescriptions, is another way of getting your medicines without having to ask your GP for a prescription each time. You are given a signed prescription with ‘RA’ on it with a set of batch prescriptions marked ‘RD’ that are unsigned. You take all of the prescriptions to your usual pharmacy. The pharmacist will keep all of the prescriptions and give you your medication on a regular basis as agreed by the GP for up to 12 months. This dispensing scheme is only suitable for patients with stable medical conditions.