Make sure your regular prescription is on your Christmas list

Out of hours health experts are encouraging patients to put more than mince pies and turkey on their wish list as we prepare for a week of fun and festivities.

Repeat prescriptions are vital for keeping patients healthy and happy during the holidays and Care UK’s out of hours medical care experts are urging people to ensure they have sufficient medication to see them through the Christmas and New Year period, when some GP surgeries may only be open for two or three days over a 10-day period.

Dr Asim Hasan, Care UK’s regional medical director for London, who also manages out of hours care, said: “To get maximum benefit from your medications it is important to take them exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Your chance of a better health outcome improves when you take your medications as directed.

“This is a busy time of year and people sometimes forget to plan ahead. However, skipping medication will hamper the efficacy of the treatment – and going days without taking medication for conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can end up with hospitalisation, or worse.”

Dr Hasan says that, where possible, the best way is to sign up to your GP surgery’s repeat prescription online service; “If your GP offers an online service it does make it easier to re-order medication, especially if you are managing a long-term condition. You can also programme an alert into your computer or smartphone calendar to remind you to order your prescription at least a week in advance of when you need it.

“Whether you are ordering by letter, in person or online, it is vital to do it in advance as your local pharmacy may have to order it in, so do not leave it until the Friday before Christmas or New Year.”

And for those who are going away for the break it is important not only to re-order any medication but also to remember to pack it. For those who find they have gone away without medication, the NHS 111 service can help, but it is better to plan ahead as this puts additional pressure on busy urgent care and out of hours NHS services, and interrupts the festivities for patients who then need to worry about acquiring their medication.

James Head, clinical lead for Care UK, the provider of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire’s NHS 111 service, said: “Planning ahead like this is very important to help people stay well and it also helps the NHS at a time when services are extremely busy. One of the most common reasons why patients called the NHS 111 telephone helpline last Christmas was because they had run out of their prescription medicines.

“With many GP practices closed for the holidays, the out of hours GPs are already working flat out seeing patients with urgent health issues, so we really don’t want them using their precious time writing repeat prescriptions for patients who could have seen their GP before the holidays.”