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Plan ahead when it comes to medication and GP appointments

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Nicola Swanborough

Plan ahead when it comes to medication and GP appointments

Epilepsy Society’s Medical Director, Professor Ley Sander is once again advising people to think ahead and make sure they do not leave getting their medication or healthcare appointment to the last minute. He is recommending that people should also avoid trying to stockpile their medication.

On 31 December the transition period for agreeing a trade deal between the UK and our European neighbours draws to a close. There is much speculation and concern about how this will affect goods coming in and out of the UK, and particularly medicines supplies.

Alongside this, Covid-19 is placing extra pressure on the healthcare system, above and beyond the usual pressures of winter illnesses.

Professor Sander’s advice is:

  • Do not try stockpiling your epilepsy medicines as this could create false local shortages and prevent other people from getting the medicine they need to control their seizures 
  • Get your prescription to your pharmacy in good time – up to seven days before you need it. This will enable the pharmacist to source other supplies if they are out of stock
  • Arrange for repeat prescriptions to be sent electronically to a pharmacy of your choice
  • Make sure you plan ahead by booking an appointment with your GP. Wherever possible, do not leave it to the last minute

Professor Sander said: “We are assured by the Department of Health and Social Care that all necessary measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of medicine supply shortages when the transition period ends. Drug manufacturers have six-week buffer stocks in place and they have taken steps to mitigate risk of delays at the borders.

“We know that the NHS is working above and beyond to deal with routine healthcare on top of Covid-19. The reality is, however, that we could be in for a bumpy ride. And this is causing anxiety.

“My advice is to plan ahead. Contact your GP surgery in good time to give yourself the best chance of getting an appointment when you need it. Arrange for repeat prescriptions to be sent electronically to a pharmacy of your choice. And don’t be tempted to stockpile your medications.”

NHS England advises

NHS England has emphasised that primary healthcare is fully operational. If anyone is experiencing problems relating to their medication or condition, they should:

  • Seek the advice of their GP
  • Call NHS 111
  • If you need an ambulance, call 999

A spokesperson for NHS England said that although most GP appointments are currently being carried out remotely, if someone is having issues with their epilepsy, the GP can use their clinical judgement to arrange a face-to-face appointment, where necessary.

Find out more about getting a prescription

No impact on patients

The Epilepsy Society has been meeting regularly with the government’s transition team. This week, David Simmons, Director of Supply Resilience at the DHSC assured us that the stockpiles held by pharmaceutical companies were good with appropriate measures in place to reduce the risk of any delays at the crossings from the EU into the UK.

He said that though there were bound to be some shortages, the NHS would be dealing with these to ensure there would be no impact on patients. He said the National Supply Disruption Response team had the clinical, freight, customs and communication expertise to deal with any potential disruption.

The Epilepsy Society has asked the DHSC whether they would consider a dedicated port for incoming medical supplies. However, David Simmons said that while there would be no specific ports or lanes for medical supplies, there would be reserved capacity for these.

Measures to reduce risk of shortages

Mitigating measures include:

  • Re-routing freight away from the short crossings between the UK and EU, particularly during the first three months
  • Express freight service arrangements to transport urgent medicines and medical products where difficulties are experienced
  • A targeted ‘trader readiness’ campaign for new custom and border arrangements
  • Medical suppliers are being asked to ensure six weeks buffer stocks in the UK. This is particularly important with the added pressure placed on supply chains by Covid-19
  • Negotiations are underway to minimise trade barriers and bolster the resilience of supply chains
  • The DHSC’s Medicines Supply Team has well-established procedures to deal with actual or potential medicine shortages

Trouble accessing your medication

If you experience problems accessing your epilepsy medication, please email our Helpline team at providing the following information:

  • Your name
  • Medication that you are having trouble accessing, including strength and dose
  • Area where you live
  • Pharmacy where you usually get your medication
  • Your contact details

EHIC card and health insurance abroad

From 1 January 2021 UK nationals who are travelling to Europe will no longer  be part of the European Health Insurance Card. However, holders of the card before the end of 2020 can continue to use it until it expires. The UK intends to issue its own UK Global Health Insurance Card but until then you will need to ensure you have travel insurance that covers your health condition.

Healthcare information for EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in the EU