If you run out of medicine outside of your GP surgery's normal opening hours and need some urgently, there are a few ways to get an emergency supply quickly, even if you're away from home.
If you have a prescription
If you already have a prescription and urgently need the medicine, try the following steps:
- If your local pharmacy is closed, you can get your medicine from any pharmacy as long as they have it in stock. Use the NHS pharmacy service search to find other nearby pharmacies and their opening hours – some are open until midnight or later, even on public holidays.
- If you'd like to speak to someone first, call NHS 111 free of charge by dialling 111 on your mobile or landline. The person you speak to can look up an out-of-hours pharmacy or another NHS service in your area.
- You can also use the NHS walk-in centre service search to find your nearest walk-in centre. These can sometimes dispense medicines after a consultation.
- If it's urgent, you can call your GP surgery. They should have details of their out-of-hours service recorded on their answering machine. This is the service your GP runs outside their usual opening hours and on public holidays – do not use this routinely. You can use the NHS GP service finder to find your GP surgery's phone number.
- If it's an emergency and you've tried all of the above unsuccessfully, use the service search to find your nearest A&E.
If you do not have a prescription
If you run out of prescription medicine and do not have a prescription with you, you can get an emergency supply from a pharmacy without a prescription.
Take an old prescription or the medicine's packaging with you, if you have it.
You'll be assessed by the pharmacist to find out:
- if you need the medicine immediately
- who previously prescribed the medicine (to make sure they're a trusted source)
- what dose of the medicine would be appropriate for you to take
The pharmacist needs to know the answers to all of these questions before they can supply a prescription-only medicine without a prescription in an emergency. They will keep a record of your details, the medicine they provide and the nature of the emergency.
If the pharmacist is not satisfied that the medicine and dose is appropriate for you, they may not supply the medicine.
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.
You may need to pay for this service and medicine, even if you do not normally, because they're being provided without a prescription. This may vary between pharmacies.
Find a local pharmacy, including its opening hours.
GPs and walk-in centres
If you run out of medicine 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. You'll then 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. Sometimes, they can give you medicine after you've seen a nurse.
Some walk-in centres are open from early morning to late evening, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If you do not need a prescription
If you need a non-prescription medicine, such as paracetamol or an antacid, and you cannot find an open pharmacy, the following places may stock a basic range of over-the-counter medicines:
- petrol stations
They also often have longer opening hours than high-street pharmacies.