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Where can I get an emergency supply of medicine?

If you urgently need medicine, contact your prescriber immediately to arrange a prescription. If this is not possible, you may be able to get medicine from a pharmacist in an emergency, subject to certain conditions.

You must have been prescribed the medicine before. In addition to this, the pharmacist:

  • will usually need to see you face-to-face
  • must agree that you need the medicine immediately
  • will usually need evidence that you have been prescribed that medicine before
  • must be satisfied with the dose that is most appropriate for you to take

The pharmacist may provide an emergency supply of up to 30 days' treatment for most prescription medicines, with these exceptions:

  • insulin, an ointment, a cream or an asthma inhaler – only the smallest pack size will be supplied
  • the contraceptive pill – only enough for a full treatment cycle will be supplied
  • liquid oral antibiotics – only the smallest quantity to provide a full course of treatment will be supplied

Only a limited range of controlled medicines can be prescribed in an emergency, such as those for epilepsy (phenobarbital). Many commonly used controlled medicines such as morphine or diamorphine cannot be supplied without a prescription by a pharmacist in an emergency.

The pharmacist will then make a note in their prescription book of:

  • your name and address
  • the nature of the emergency
  • the date of the emergency supply
  • the name, quantity, form (e.g. capsules, tablets or liquid) and strength of the medicine

Even if the pharmacist is unable to give you an emergency supply of a medicine, they will advise you on how to obtain any essential medical care you may need.

Is it an NHS service?

Supplying a medicine in an emergency on the NHS may be possible in some pharmacies if you regularly take the medicine on an NHS prescription. To find out if the service is available in your area visit NHS 111 online.

If it not possible to get a prescription of emergency medicine on the NHS in your area, it will be a private service, meaning that the pharmacist can charge for it. The charge will vary, depending on the medicine and the pharmacist's policy.

Getting your medicine or a prescription

You may be able to get your medicine or a prescription in one of the following ways:

  • seeing a local GP and asking for a prescription. Staff at an NHS walk-in centre may be able to arrange for you to see a GP
  • asking a local pharmacist if they can provide an emergency supply of your medicine
  • in some cases, a nurse at an NHS walk-in centre may be able to supply your medicine or a prescription
  • outside normal GP hours, you may be able to get a prescription from an out-of-hours service or by calling 111
  • Visit NHS 111 online

Finding a pharmacy

You can use our services directory to find a pharmacy near you.

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 20 February 2020
Next review due: 20 February 2023