Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

Article created 22/04/2020

If you have a health condition which is managed with a regular prescription, it’s more important than ever for you to take your medication as prescribed in this time of lockdown; not only for your own health but to help protect the NHS.

Alleviating pressure on frontline services

As the UK’s lockdown has officially been extended to 7th May, we’re all concerned with NHS resources and what we can do to help. Many of us have proudly clapped to honour the hard work of the NHS staff during these trying times and by following government guidance and remaining in our homes, we can help to reduce this strain.

If you have a long-term medical condition, taking your medication as prescribed will not only protect you but the NHS too.

The cost of not taking your medicine

One of the biggest challenges the NHS faces when it comes to ensuring effective healthcare is patients not taking their medicine as prescribed. In fact, the problem is so severe that patients not taking their medicine in the right way (known as ‘non-adherence’) is widely recognised as the main reason why a course of treatment could fail.

When a treatment fails it could require a trip to see a medical professional, which is an unnecessary risk in these times of self-isolation. It could also mean additional medicines are needed and potentially more serious risks to health if your condition deteriorates.    

Also, wasted medicines alone are believed to cost the NHS in England around £300 million each year. That’s a huge amount of money which could greatly benefit frontline services in what is sure to be a testing year for NHS budgets.

Why don’t people take their medicine?

There are many reasons why people don’t take their medicine as they should. It’s estimated that only about half of medicines for long term conditions are taken as prescribed. There’s also little evidence to suggest that this rate has improved in the last 50 years.

Forgetfulness is cited as a common reason why people don’t take their medicines. Patients can struggle to incorporate them into their daily routine and the subsequent break in medication can compromise their treatment. With the coronavirus pandemic making our usual routines more difficult to manage, it is important that we think of new ways to remember to take our medications.

Some patients stop taking their medicine if they experience unpleasant side effects, without consulting their GP or pharmacist first. Even though people may be concerned that GP’s and pharmacists are under increased pressure caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important that you still contact them in the first instance if you do experience issues. You can also report side effects to the Yellow Card scheme which helps the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) monitor the safety of medicines in the population.

Another common reason is that patients stop taking their medicine when they start feeling better. This is commonly seen with courses of antibiotics – it’s important that you finish the course as prescribed. By not doing so, you could prolong your treatment and in some cases risk your health. Many medicines are preventative, so they are reducing your risk of health problems in the future – so you’ll thank yourself later for taking them in the right way now.

How Pharmacy2U can help with our handy reminder service

Forgetfulness can also extend to ordering your prescriptions, leaving you short or out of medicines before the next supply is ready. Going without your medication is a risk to your health and last minute requests or emergency supplies will likely cause additional pressure to pharmacy and surgery staff at this time. Our NHS repeat prescription service can help, with handy reminders to tell you when it’s time to re-order to ensure you don’t run out of your medication.

Find out more here.