Why are people struggling to get their medication?

We look at one of the issues people raise with Healthwatch and the steps GPs and Pharmacists can take to help people get the medication they need.

Every month, thousands of people talk to Healthwatch about their day-to-day experiences of using NHS and social care services.

One issue we’re hearing more about is the difficulty some people face getting the medication they need.

In our latest review of the evidence we look at this subject and the changes people would like to see to GP and pharmacy services.

Two serious concerns

People often tell us about their frustrations with the system. Delays getting a GP appointment can have a knock-on-effect on how quickly you get diagnosed and given the right medication. We also hear about instances where people face more serious issues.

1. Being given the wrong medicine

Worryingly, some people have experienced administration errors by their GP or pharmacist. This means they were given the wrong medication, or had their medication changed without being told, which in some cases led to an allergic reaction.

"I see my GP every three months for my Depo injection. I went in yesterday and saw a different GP. She told me that I was given a Vitamin B12 injection instead of my contraceptive last visit."
— Personal story shared with Healthwatch

2. Out of stock medication

When medication is out of stock at pharmacies it can leave people feeling stressed. In more serious cases it can make dealing with acute pain and infections more difficult, and make it harder to manage cancer and chronic conditions such as eczema.

People experiencing these problems with their medication said it had prolonged their recovery and had a negative effect on their long-term health.

What changes do people want to see?

The public want staff in GP surgeries and pharmacies to understand their experiences and take steps to improve the service they provide. This includes:

  • Making it easier to order repeat prescriptions online, without the worry of getting the wrong medicine or dose.
  • GPs, pharmacies and hospitals to get the basics of care right, working together to provide a good experience.
  • Better communication from the NHS about why there are supply issues with medication.

People have also raised concerned about access to medication being different from one area to the next. NHS England issued national guidance around what medication should be made available on prescription across the country. Where individual Clinical Commissioning Groups in certain areas decide to deviate from the guidance, we recommend they carry out additional conversations with their communities to make sure local people have a say.

Download our briefing

You can download our briefing to read in detail why people are facing problems with their medication. The briefing also looks at what 11,000 people have told us about using GPs, hospitals, social care and mental health services between October – December 2018.


Share your thoughts

You can help make health and care services better by sharing your experiences and ideas. Talk to your local Healthwatch.

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