Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

Understanding medication reviews

Patients who get a repeat prescription from the NHS to help treat or manage a long-term health condition can sometimes be asked to see their GP or other healthcare professional, so they can make sure their treatment is going as planned. This is known as a structured medication review and here we’re going to take a closer look at what they are and why they’re so important.

What is a medication review?

A structured medication review is a confidential consultation carried out by your GP, or a pharmacist or advanced nurse practitioner from your local primary care network, with full medical notes. The objective is to reach an agreement with you about your medicines, optimise the impact of the medicines you’re taking, reduce the number of problems you might be having with them, and reduce waste.

They also give you the opportunity to raise any worries, thoughts or suggestions you might have about your prescribed treatments. It’s also a chance to take advantage of clinical insight and advice from a medical professional who may have some useful suggestions for you to consider.

Who are medication reviews for?

A structured medication review is recommended for anyone who gets a repeat NHS prescription for a long term health condition, particularly those with multiple conditions and those with complex medicine regimes.

Your GP may also request that you have a regular medication review at regular intervals, usually yearly. You can also make an appointment at any time to discuss any concerns you have, or you can discuss them with your pharmacist.

Why are medication reviews so important?

Medication reviews identify opportunities to help you get the best out of the medicines you’re taking, to help you understand what they do and why you’re taking them, to switch you to different medicines – or sometimes to stop medicines that are no longer right for you.

Patients choosing not to take their medicines in the right way is a serious health risk for patients and a costly issue for the NHS. It’s thought to be the main reason why prescribed treatments fail and costs the NHS approximately £300 million a year.

There are many reasons why patients may stop taking their prescribed medicines. Some are involuntary, such as forgetfulness. Sometimes a patient may also consciously decide to stop taking their medicine as prescribed without consulting their GP. This can happen when a patient experiences an unpleasant side effect or feels better. During a medication review, a patient can discuss any concerns they might have about what they’re taking and hopefully avoid the failure of a treatment.

If you’re experiencing side effects, it’s also worth reporting them to the Yellow Card Scheme. The Yellow Card Scheme helps the Government monitor medicines to ensure any safety concerns are collated and addressed.

How can I book a medication review?

You can request a review by speaking to your GP or nurse during an appointment or contacting them directly. If you’re a Pharmacy2U patient then we’ll let you know if your GP would like to schedule a medication review with you.

Do I need to prepare for a medication review?

The most important things you can do to prepare for your medication review are:

  • Write down a list of all the medicines you’re taking and how you’re taking them (e.g. the time of day, and if it’s before or after a meal). This includes prescribed and non-prescribed medicines.
  • Make a note of how taking your medicines has made you feel and if it’s different to normal.
  • Write down any specific questions you have about your treatments in advance.

And because a medication review is a confidential appointment, it’s important to be open and honest. 

How much does a medication review cost?

Medication reviews are funded by the NHS. It’s a hugely important service as it helps ensure that less treatments end in failure which is better for both your health as well as NHS resources.

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