If your family doctor has prescribed you a medicine, it's because they think it will help you. If you have any questions about the medicines you have been prescribed, you can ask the pharmacist at your local chemist. They will be able to explain what your medicines are for and how to take them.
Your doctor will also be able to help with questions about your medicines. You may feel that you no longer need them, but you shouldn't stop taking them without speaking to your doctor first.
Making sure that your medicines are stored properly, that they have not expired when you take them, and that prescriptions are refilled, requires time and attention.
If you have more than one health condition, you should have a care plan which includes information about your medicines and may include a medicines plan to help you.
Also, taking many different medicines at the same time is difficult. It can be hard to remember what each drug is for, when you should take it, and how you should take it. This is especially true for people with memory problems. But, there are simple things you can do to help you manage your medicines wisely.
Simple things you can do
- Your pharmacist can give you advice about ways to help you keep track of your medicines, and if you are not sure how to take them.
- Ask your pharmacist if you would like large print labels or for advice if the original containers are difficult to open.
- Keep medicines in their original containers, and never put more than one kind of medicine in the same container.
- Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you how a medicine should be stored, and it should say on the label. Some medicines must be stored in the fridge. A bathroom medicine cabinet is not a good place to store most medicines because of the moist, warm conditions, which can cause them to break down more quickly.
- If you want to stop taking a prescribed medicine, please talk with your doctor first and make sure they say it's okay, because stopping could upset your condition even if you feel better.
- Review your medicine record at every visit to the doctor and whenever they prescribe new medicine. They may have new information about your medicines that might be important for you.
- Make sure you have the most up to date repeat prescription (sometimes called a medication slip) available at all times and do not use an old one.
- Get prescriptions refilled early enough so you won't run out of medicines. Running out could cause problems with your medicine schedule.
- Always check expiry dates. You should return out of date medicines to a community pharmacy for safe and controlled destruction.
- Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children and pets. Be extra cautious when children visit your home.
Your pharmacist is a resource
Finally, the pharmacist is a good source of information about your medicines. As well as answering questions and helping you select non-prescription medicines, your local pharmacist keeps records of all the prescriptions you get filled at that store.
Because the pharmacist keeps these records, it is a very good idea to get your prescriptions filled at the same store whenever possible.
You can find more information by using the links below.
- Choice and medication
- NHS Choices - How to take your medicine
- NHS Choices - Tips for carers
- NHS Choices - Medicines A-Z
- NHS Choices - Ask your pharmacist for advice and support
- NHS Choices - Find pharmacy services
Help with taking your medicines
Taking your medicine will always be your responsibility, so make sure your doctor knows if you have problems. They will be able to discuss ways to help you or provide your medicine in a way that makes it easier, for example as a liquid instead of a tablet.
If you still can't manage and need help, it may be that you also have care needs being delivered by a care agency. You can ask if they can help.
Your care worker may help you during their visit, but only if there is no one else who can help and the following things have been done:
- Your health or social care worker has said that you need help
- You have signed a form saying you agree
- Your care worker has had the proper training
If you don't have a care worker, or you need help at times when your care worker isn't visiting, you should tell your doctor or your nurse so that they can arrange the extra help you need.
The medicine must have been prescribed in your name. It must be available in the packaging it was originally dispensed in and have the label giving the instructions from your doctor or the pharmacist clearly visible.
Please see the Information sheet B11: Help with taking medicines. You can also find links to more information to help you below.