Pharmacy Services

Making choices about your medicines

This page explains what you should know about your medicines and how you can be involved in making choices about them.

It may help you most if you read this before your hospital appointment, but will also be useful if you have decisions to make after you have seen your doctor.


Do you have a choice?

For some medical conditions there is one treatment which is known to be the best because it is the most effective or has fewest side effects.  For other conditions there are two or more treatments that are equally effective.  The treatment that is best for you will then depend largely on your preferences and your lifestyle.  A small number of treatments are not (usually) funded by the NHS; if one of these would be the best treatment for you then it may still be possible for you to have it.  Your consultant will know how to proceed in this instance.

What about medicines you have taken for a long time?

Even if you have taken a medicine for a long time, you still make a decision every day on if and how to take it.  Most people do not take their prescribed medicines at some time.  If there are any reasons why you can’t or don’t want to take your medicine then we would like to know about it.  We may be able to find a solution together.  If your lifestyle, health or preferences have changed, your original treatment may no longer be the best choice for you.

Where can you get information about your choices?

The person who prescribes your treatment can help you to understand the risks and benefits of your choices and support you with making a decision.  You can also ask the pharmacist questions when you have your prescription dispensed.  The hospital pharmacy department has a patient helpline 0191 2823016; they can help if you have questions about the medicine supplied by the hospital.  The following websites contain good quality information about your health and treatments.  You can use them at your local library if you do not have internet access at home: NHS Choices (provided by the Department of Health) and Patient (provided by GPs and pharmacists).

What should you know about your medicines?

Thinking about treatment

  • Why do you need to start taking a medicine?
  • What will happen if you don’t take a medicine?
  • How will the medicine help your condition?
  • Do you have to pay for your prescriptions?

Choosing treatment

  • What different medicines are available?
  • Is it alright to take this medicine with other medicines or herbal remedies you are already taking?
  • What side effects should you look out for?
  • How likely are these to happen?
  • What should you do if you get any of the side effects?
  • Do you need to have any tests to see if the medicine is working?
  • What happens if this medicine doesn’t work for you?

Having treatment

  • What does your medicine actually do?
  • When and how should you take the medicine?
  • Do you need to avoid any foods or alcohol?
  • How do you need to store it?
  • Do you need to keep taking the medicine if you feel well?
  • How long will you need to keep taking the medicine?
  • How quickly will the medicine start working?
  • What should you do if you forget a dose?
  • If you are ill, should you continue to take your medicine?
  • How will you know if you are taking the right dose?
  • Do you need to get further supplies from your GP when the supply from the hospital runs out?

How you can help hospital staff to involve you in choices

  • Keep an up to date list of all medicines you are taking. Include the name and dose of prescribed and bought medicines, herbal remedies and food supplements.
  • Make a note of any allergies or bad reactions to medicines.

Tell hospital staff (i.e. your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or therapist)

• What is important to you when making choices aboutyour treatment
• If we are not giving you enough information.
• If you do not understand any information we have given you.
• If you need more help or time to make a choice

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