Will my repeat prescription be available during the coronavirus crisis - and should I stock up?

With over 70s to be asked soon to employ social distancing measures - and those exhibiting symptoms going into full self-isolation - getting repeat prescriptions will be a major concern.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Can I still get repeat prescriptions during the coronavirus outbreak?

A letter from the NHS providing a coronavirus update to staff also stated that “Practices should not change their repeat prescription durations” so for now all repeat prescriptions should be available as usual.

However, the NHS is also currently advising people who may have been exposed to coronavirus to self-isolate, which will require some people to make alternative arrangements for collecting their prescriptions.

If you’re not able to go to the doctor because you’re self-isolating, you could ask a friend or family member to collect your prescriptions on your behalf.

Alternatively, many pharmacists provide a home delivery service, allowing you to sign up and have their medications brought to you directly.

The NHS has also advised that “Practices should consider putting all suitable patients on electronic repeat dispensing as soon as possible.”

Rather than requiring the prescriber to authorise each prescription by hand, electronic repeat dispensing allows for a batch of repeat prescriptions to be authorised at once.

How are doctor surgeries and pharmacies operating during the crisis?

GPs around the UK are taking steps to limit the number of patients visiting them in person in an attempt to stop the virus spreading further.

Patients are advised to contact their GP either by phone or online, with some practices now refusing walk-ins altogether. They will then be put through additional checks before a face-to-face appointment can be arranged.

Those who suspect they may have contracted the coronavirus should contact NHS 111 for further instructions rather than going to their GP.

Will there be a shortage of medication due to coronavirus?

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said “There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19.

“The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.

“We are working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to ensure patients can access the medicines they need and precautions are in place to prevent future shortages.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has also said that the stockpile of medication which the UK developed in anticipation of Brexit has made them well-equipped to handle the coronavirus.

Gidley said: “The Brexit buffer of medicines that was created in preparation for a no-deal means that the UK is well prepared for any potential medicine shortages and has been able to stockpile to maintain access to medicines.”

Should I stock up on medicine?

Dr. Nancy Messonnier from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that those who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of the coronavirus should ensure they have a sufficient stock of medication in case they are forced to stay at home.

She recommended those who need medication "have supplies on hand like routine medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms."

However, in its letter to staff, the NHS also said that practices should not “support patients trying to stockpile: these actions may put a strain on the supply chain and exacerbate any potential shortages.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society echoed this, urging people not to stockpile as this could “contribute towards potential shortages”.

The official advice for medication at the moment is essentially the same as that for other household supplies – people should ensure they have enough to see them through a potential isolation period but not to stockpile beyond that point.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman.