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Changes to your prescription

We have put together some frequently asked questions to answer any queries that you may have around our changes to the way “repeat prescriptions” are ordered.

What is changing?

A scheme is taking place involving St Helens GP practices and from 10th October 2017 all CCG practices will be taking part.

From this date practices will only accept requests for repeat prescriptions from you or your carer/relative/friend (apart from in exceptional circumstances by arrangement).

How can I order my repeat prescription?

In addition to the traditional ways with which you can order a repeat prescription:

  • You can now also use the FREE Patient Access website, and smartphone app.
  • Handing in the white tear off part of your prescription, which is normally received when you receive your medication from the pharmacy,
  • A request slip which is located in your practice reception,
  • A fax (although this will vary for each practice).

How will I know if this affects me?

Those patients in St Helens who have been identified as having at least one medicine that is a repeat prescription and are registered with one of the listed practices have been written to by their GP. In the letter they will receive, it will explain why this is happening, the new and existing ways that they can now order their prescription and who to contact if they need any further support or information.

If you are registered with one of the listed practices and your medicine is currently ordered for you by your pharmacy or a dispensing company, you will now need to order it yourself directly from your GP practice.

Is anyone exempt from this?

There are a number of patients in St Helens who order a repeat prescription, who may be exempt from this new process of ordering repeat prescriptions. These include:

  • Patients on blister packs – For those patients who may find it difficult to remember what to take and when, and through agreement with their GP are given blister packs which are labelled Monday to Sunday with the times that their medicines need to be taken. As those patients have been identified as needing support in when to take medicines, at this stage, it has been agreed that changing to ordering their own repeat prescriptions may be too challenging.


  • Patients identified by the listed practices who will be unable to order their own medication themselves and do not have a carer/relative/friend able to order on their behalf.

How do I know if I am one of the above?

Through prior arrangement with your GP.

Have all patients on repeat prescriptions been written to to advise them of the change?

Every patient on a repeat medication registered at St Helens CCG practices has been written to by their GP to explain to them what is happening, when and why.

Why is this happening?

This new system addresses some very real medicines safety issues, whilst also safeguarding precious NHS funds.

St Helens GP  practices will be able to more safely monitor repeat prescriptions for these patients, ensuring their repeat medications remain appropriate for their individual medical conditions, which often change over time.

We know that the current system often leads to patients receiving medications they do not require and people continue to receive excess medicines. This is a real safety issue and we need to end this.

So, as well as introducing safer prescribing systems, the scheme will also save money, enabling more vital NHS funds to be spent on priority healthcare benefiting a greater number of St Helens  residents.

Why is this happening in St Helens?

The issue of medicines waste is a national issue, with over £300million a year spent by the NHS on unused and unnecessary medicines.  Approximately £1million of this is waste in the St Helens area.

Many CCGs across the country are in the process of, or have successfully implemented, these changes in how to order repeat prescriptions to help tackle this issue.

Why do I need to go into my practice to register for Patient Access?

Any residents wanting to use Patient Access, are encouraged to visit their local surgery in the first instance, who will then give residents a unique code, which once activated allows full use of the Patient Access services.  

To ensure that the NHS adheres to its responsibility to protect the private information of its patients, practices ask patients to fill in an application and bring in 2 forms of identification (ID). They then process the request and issue the patient with an access code.

This ensures that practices are registering the correct patients and that private data is not getting into the wrong hands.

I look after a patient affected, am I still able to register for someone else onto Patient Access?

Yes, this can be done via ‘proxy access’. Proxy access allows a carer, parent or legal guardian access to a patient’s record with the patient’s consent, by someone other than the patient e.g.  carer, parent or legal guardian.

All GP Practices should have a Proxy Access policy, ask your local GP practice for more information.

Who is a carer?

A carer is someone who helps another person, usually a relative or a friend, in their day to day life. This is not the same as someone who provides care professionally or through a voluntary organisation?

Can I order a prescription for my child?

Please see above, with regards to using ‘Proxy Access’.

What do I do if I think that someone I know will not be able to order their own medication?

Any patients who are unable to order their own medication should contact their surgery to make arrangements of how to order their medication.

However, if you are concerned for a relative or friend, then please contact the GP practice and make them aware, so that the practice can then contact the patient.

What will I do over the winter months, as I will struggle to get out as much as I would like?

You can use Patient Access to order your medication, ask a family member, friend or carer to drop off the tick slip, or otherwise contact your GP practice who will make suitable arrangements for you.

Is this just about saving money?

We are addressing some very real medicines safety issues, but it will also save vital NHS funds which can be better spent on priority healthcare benefiting a greater number of St Helens residents.

CCGs across the country have savings targets to meet their financial duties. Within St Helens, £1million a year is spent on wasted medicines. This money can be redirected into other services in St Helens such as 163 hip replacements, 148 knee replacements, 66 drug treatment courses for breast cancer, 7,692 outpatient appointments.

Who have you engaged with about this?

As a membership organisation, we have liaised with our membership of local GP practices who are in support of this approach. We have worked closely with practice staff and medicine coordinators to ensure they are set up to implement this change and have received the relevant training. We have also engaged fully, our local pharmaceutical committee, local medical committee and the CCG’s medicines management committee.

We value the views and experiences of patients, carers and the wider community, so we have engaged with the St Helens Patient Experience and Involvement Group as well as Healthwatch and the PPG chairs of the listed practices.

Are all GP practices supporting this campaign?

All practices have been engaged with and are being trained on how to manage these changes that come into effect from October 2017. However, although we can encourage best practice, the decision as to whether they fully support the campaign lies with them. In St Helens, all practices are supporting this.

If you have any questions, we would recommend that you speak to your GP practice in the first instance.

Who do I speak to about my repeat prescription?

If you have any queries about your repeat prescription, please speak to your GP.

If you would like to comment on this scheme please contact PALS on 0800 218 2333.

I'm a carer - I'm concerned that I just won't have time to order my repeat prescription myself.

We understand how demanding the pressures are upon carers and we want to try to make life as easy as possible for you. This is why we are encouraging all patients and carers to use the FREE Patient Access website and smartphone app. If you are not an internet user, please speak to your GP practice about your own circumstances for advice on how best to order your repeat prescription.

What if I need help using Patient Access?

GP practice staff have been trained to support any patients who may have difficulty using the new Patient Access website and smartphone app.

You can speak to your practice if you have any concerns and they will arrange for someone to contact you to discuss any issues and provide advice.

In addition, there are a number of useful user guides available on YouTube, simply go to and search ‘Patient Access’.

Do I have to use Patient Access?

No, you can still order your repeat prescription through previous more traditional methods. We are encouraging patients to move onto Patient Access as a helpful way of ordering your repeat prescriptions but there are options to suit everyone in place.

If I don’t order one of my medicines one month, will I be able to order it again the following month?

Yes, the aim of this campaign is to ensure that patients are only ordering the medicines that they need, so if you do have medication at home, please use this first before ordering more. You will still be able to order your medication as per your repeat list.

Will I have to pick up my prescription and take it to my pharmacist myself?

No, if your local pharmacist currently picks up your prescription, or if your prescription goes electronically to your chosen pharmacist, then this will still continue to happen. You will need to inform them when you have ordered your medication and ask them to collect your prescription.

But will my local pharmacist still deliver my medication?

There will be no change to this service.

I have medicines at home that I don't need. How can I return them?

If you do find that you have medicines that you do not need, please return these to your local pharmacy who will dispose of them safely.