Repeat Prescriptions: Concept and Practice – What to Expect

T H E   C O N C E P T

The concept of repeat prescriptions is cracking. Especially for long  term users: Cutting out the awkward monthly conversations with the doctor, and giving you a streamline process that simply involves making a swift phone call to order a new batch,  and picking up from the chemist: you’re done for another 30 days or so.

Until of course, you add all the extra stuff in: Charges, working hours, unexpected time away from home, doctor’s opening hours, medicated freedom, accessibility, the list goes on.

C H A R G E S

If you’re anything like me, paying to stay happy and healthy feels a little unfair. And when you have to pay for two or three things a month, it feels really unfair.

I take two different medications, and also have recently needed steroid ointment and cream for my skin. That’s 4 prescription charges, amounting to a horrible figure.

And if you’re a bit strapped for cash, or your Anxiety is perhaps making you freak out about finances, the charges can feel like the worst thing to happen in your life.

Cue entire ‘if I wasn’t so scared or down all the time I would be so much richer. Why do bad things happen to good people’ breakdown.

Tip:   I’ve recently got myself in with the cool kids who have their pre-paid prescription cards which – who knew – save you so. much. money.
Paying £15 a month for 10 months gives you unlimited prescriptions all year, so the money worries are all taken care of.

S I D E    N O T E

The other day, I thought how much easier things would be for chemists and patients in the UK if we were given those orange plastic tubs like you see in American films for prescriptions? Every time you need it topping up or to get your new prescription, you can take in the same pot. It’d save time and costs for cardboard packaging and metal foil capsule films. I think I solved a NHS crisis… amirite.

T I M E

I work in a city a bit too far from my doctors to nip in at lunchtime to request something or pop into the chemist to pick it up. So unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that I have to spend a few days at the end of the month without prescriptions; whilst they’re being processed and are available for collection.

Sometimes Daniel can head into the doctors for me to bring home the medical bacon, but it’s a bit much to ask when traffic home leaves a millisecond of time between getting there, and them closing up shop.

I get home at 6, so the earliest I can get to the doctors or chemist is about 10 minutes later. Which isn’t ideal for the Chemist that shuts 6-6:30.

Not to mention, calling the doctors for a repeat or an appointment is a nightmare too; and lines are only open an hour after I’ve set off to work and left the city.

Whilst I know I could be a little more organised and remember to order my prescription before I actually run out, it would definitely be a bit more helpful to have time to actually get to the doctors to pick up the slip, or to the chemist to have them process it whilst you wait, without having to wait till the weekend.

Because then comes the worst part:

W I T H D R A W A L   S Y M P T O M S

I’m sure the symptoms aren’t as bad as cold turkeying your way to a Heroin-free life, but even just a few days off daily prescribed medicines can affect you.
Within the same day of not taking my tablets I feel the worst onset of vertigo. Every tiny motion I make ends up with the most sickening tingly feeling pulsing itself through my body and head.

Then of course, there’s the physical symptoms of Anxiety, that are no longer fought back. Tight chests, tiredness, fidgeting and insomnia.
I’m happy to say I don’t often re-live those 2 hour sleep nights I had at the beginning, but recently after running out, they definitely have taken a toll.

After experiencing withdrawal symptoms for a few days a month, it does worry me and make me question what I’m putting in my body and why it’s affecting me so much. How would my life be without them? How long would it take to come off?

I would absolutely never recommend going for the ‘ah what’s a few days between friends going to do?’ mentality if you can find a way around it. Sometimes it’s tricky – like if you’re away from home unexpectedly – but most of the time, get your medication ordered and prepared before you find yourself taking the last set.

This post is pretty much something I always realise I want to write, whilst I’m sat laying with my wheat bag and duvet, trying not to move too much for fear of falling off the earth… Of course, it only comes to mind when it’s too late for me to take my own advice that month.

It’s probably just me who’s absolutely useless at remembering to get booked in with the doctors or at least call for the repeat before running out.

However, a lot of doctors aren’t open out of work hours. Which means if you’re a commuter like myself, there’s never really an opportune time to pop in. They either open too late, or close too early, and I definitely think it’s something the country’s NHS system needs to think about.

Even if it could be streamlined so that prescriptions could be documented online, so that any chemist can log in and print out the correct one; so that you never feel like you have no other option but to go without.

It’s very dangerous straight out coming off medication – in any circumstance – and a lot of mental health related prescriptions can cause a huge dependency, which in turn makes withdrawal pretty intense. It’s difficult to ride out the symptoms, and at times they becoming truly debilitating, so coming off medication should be kept to a slow process with a doctor’s permission and supervision.

N O   M O N I T O R I N G

When it comes to skipping out the middle man, AKA the GP, to get your prescription, there’s a danger in which you can end up on medication – sometimes the wrong medication – for too long, without anyone really keeping tabs.

For the contraceptive pill, until recently, I’ve had to have my blood pressure, weight and diet/lifestyle questioned in an appointment with the doctor every three months to get my prescription. This time she gave me a year’s worth, and I think that’s the most you’re allowed. There’s a lot of side effects with the contraceptive pill, so it isn’t available on repeat prescription.

And yet, I can get a repeat prescription of tablets that could actually cause damage.

I haven’t been to the doctors about my medications since last November, where I was told to just continue with what I had, rather than trying something new. Which means it’s almost a year (I started these certain tablets in October) since I started this medication, and not once has anyone monitored it.

To me, that’s pretty ridiculous, as I’ve never intended to be on medication my whole life. But without some sort of monitoring from the doctors, the onus is put on the patient to book an appointment to let the doctor know that we think we might want to wean ourselves off, or boost them higher, without the support or perspective from a professional.

It’s the sort of thing that really worries me. Because the people receiving these medications have nobody there necessarily stopping them from overdosing, self prescribing or even encouraging them to not depend on medication.

I guess we’re sort of just left to ‘see how it goes’ whilst anyone with a physical ailment would be required to attend regular check ups.

And after experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s obvious that the weaning period would be horrifically difficult, and I’m not particularly filled with confidence that there would be any professional around to help and encourage.

I’ve found myself sort of just accepting that I’ll always be on this medication, and without continuously seeing a doctor, I’m left to my own accord to ‘plod on’. That means essentially I’m medicated for life, until I feel brave enough to ask for an alternative. And I think that’s the danger of repeats; dependency takes over and there’s no dramatic improvements happening. Progress plateaus.

So I’m still not overly persuaded on how I’m benefitting from a repeat prescription, as opposed to having to head into the doctors for an appointment. I still have to call in advance to book the printing of a tiny slip of green paper, and wait a few days for a doctor to sign said slip, and hand it to the chemist. And even then, I still have to sit and wait for a good 10 minutes whilst they process it.

The only thing I’d definitely recommend is the pre-paid prescription card, and for anyone who’s interested, you can get the details here

Hope this was insightful… to at least someone!

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