Accessing medicines out of hours

If you run out of your medicines outside normal opening hours and need some urgently, there are a few ways to get an emergency supply quickly, including if you're away from home.

If you already have a prescription and urgently need the medicines, try the following steps:

  • If your local pharmacy is closed, use the NHS pharmacy service search to find other nearby pharmacies and their opening hours. Some are open until midnight or even later, even on public holidays.
  • If you would prefer to speak to someone first, call NHS 111 free of charge by dialling 111 on your mobile or landline. The person you speak to will also be able to look up an out-of-hours pharmacy or service in your area for you. 
  • You can also use the service search to find your nearest NHS walk-in centre, which can sometimes dispense medicines after a consultation.
  • For very urgent cases, you could try calling your GP practice. They should have details of their out-of-hours service recorded on their answering machines. This is the service that your GP runs outside of their usual opening hours, and on public holidays, and should not be used routinely. You can use the NHS GP service search to find your GP’s phone number.
  • If it’s a real emergency and you’ve tried all of the above unsuccessfully, use the service search to find your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) unit.

If you need non-prescription medicines, such as paracetamol or an antacid, and you can’t find an open pharmacy, the following places may stock a basic range of over-the-counter medicines and often have longer opening hours than high-street pharmacies:

  • supermarkets
  • newsagents
  • petrol stations

If you don't have a prescription

Tip: If you use prescription medicines, always keep a record of your current prescription medicines, as set out in your usual prescription form.

If you run out of prescription medicines and you don’t have a prescription with you, you may be able to get an emergency supply without a prescription from a pharmacy. It's a good idea to take along your medicine's packaging with you, if you have kept it. 

Pharmacies

You'll be interviewed by the pharmacist to find out:

  • whether there is an immediate need for the medicine
  • that it is not practical to obtain a prescription in the circumstances without undue delay 
  • that the medicine has, on a previous occasion, been prescribed by a prescriber 
  • what dose of the medicine would be appropriate for the person to take

The pharmacist will need to be assured of all these things before they supply a prescription-only medicine in an emergency, without a prescription. If the pharmacist is not satisfied that the medicine and dose is appropriate for you, they may not supply the medicine.

A charge will be made for the medicines supplied and for the service provided. This may vary between pharmacies.

Find a local pharmacy, including its opening hours.

GPs and walk-in centres

If you run out of medicines while you're away from home, you may be able to have a consultation with a local GP and get a prescription for a limited supply of medicines.

If you’re given a prescription, you'll still need to find a pharmacy that's open.

You can also go to an NHS walk-in centre. They may be able to organise a GP consultation. In some cases, they can give you medicine after you’ve seen a nurse.

Some walk-in centres are open from early morning to late evening, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Page last reviewed: 01/02/2013

Next review due: 01/02/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 67 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception (the pill or IUD) can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex

Making sense of your medicines

Find out about taking prescription medicines and what to discuss with your doctor. Plus, a pharmacist answers common questions

Keep track of your medicines

Going into hospital? Changing GP? Ensure you always get the right medicines

How your pharmacy can help

Your local pharmacy is more than just a shop for medicines. It could save a trip to the GP

Cold comfort

Find out how to look after yourself if you get a cough, cold or flu, and when you need to see a doctor