A top pharmacist is urging people to order repeat prescriptions ahead of the May bank holiday.

With the bank holiday fast approaching, Karen O’Brien MBE, chief pharmacist for NHS England – North West, is urging members of the public to order repeat prescriptions that are due in good time.

Karen has advised that any repeat prescriptions due in the days over the May bank holiday will need to be ordered by Friday, April 26. 

Each bank holiday the NHS 111 phone service sees huge increases in calls from people who need urgent repeat prescriptions. 

Across the May Day Bank Holiday in 2023, 25,978 calls were received by the NHS 111 service, which was a 24 per cent increase on the 20,913, 111 calls received the weekend before.

On the same bank holiday weekend, there was a 96 per cent increase in the number of calls for repeat prescriptions, compared to the weekend before.

Pharmacies may have limited opening hours over the May bank holiday, and many will be closed on Monday, May 6, making it more challenging for patients to access medicines at short notice.

Waiting and using emergency or urgent services over the break puts added pressure on already busy NHS services. 

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Karen said: “Keeping your medicine cabinets stocked, knowing when your GP practice is open, and planning for repeat prescriptions that are due will ensure you can make the most of the bank holiday weekend. 

“Running out of your usual medication can have serious consequences, especially if you use them to control a heart condition, breathing problems or have a health condition such as diabetes.”

The region’s lead GP, Dr Paula Cowan, medical director for primary care for NHS England – North West, reiterated the message saying: “If you take regular medications, for whatever reason, and if you are due a repeat prescription in the week leading up to May bank holiday weekend, please remember to always request your repeat via your practice or the NHS app by Friday, April 26.

“This enables your GP practice and pharmacy to have your repeat medication ready in time for you. This is particularly important ahead of bank holiday weekends. Please help us to help you and avoid any gaps in your medication.” 

She added: “The easiest way to order repeat prescriptions is by using GP online services, via the NHS App or through your GP practice website. If you do not have access to GP online services, you can phone your GP practice to order prescriptions.”

Paul Johnston, senior service delivery manager for NHS 111, said: “We know that during bank holidays when the public has less access to GPs and pharmacies, they rely more on us to help them.

“I want to reassure people that we have plenty of health advisors available to assist, but it’s likely that the waiting time will be longer during the bank holiday weekend.

“Equally, calls for prescription medicine often go up dramatically, so we urge people to think ahead and ensure they have enough before the weekend.

“As an alternative, NHS 111 online can provide a wide range of health advice. We always recommend it ahead of calling us, as you’ll be able to get the same information without having to wait.”

Over the May bank holiday, urgent and emergency care services will be open as normal. 

The public should call 999 or attend accident and emergency services in the event of a life or limb threatening emergency.

For non-emergency health advice, people can contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk, which offers the same help and advice as the telephone service. If you cannot access 111 online, please call 111.

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