MOST of us have picked up a prescription from the pharmacy, right? For some, it will be a one-off prescription for a medicine to help with acute symptoms such as antibiotics or pain relief. But anyone who lives with a long-term condition or persistent symptoms, will be given a ‘repeat prescription’ for an extended period of time, or even for the rest of their life.
I am one of those people. Having type 1 diabetes means I rely very heavily on the NHS to give me certain medications and devices to manage my condition, and well, keep me alive. My repeat prescription list is 5 pages long. Some items, I only need to order every couple of years, some I have never had to use but they need to be there ‘just in case’, and because the NHS have capped the quantity I am allowed per order (e.g. blood testing strips), there are some things that I need to order every 2 or 3 weeks. I am therefore, a regular doon the pharmacy.
I was on first name terms with the staff in my local pharmacy, and built up a good relationship with them over the years. They knew who I was, my situation, my needs and wishes, and my tendency to be a bit of a disorganised and forgetfull mess at times – especially when I left home for the first time at 18 years old and realised that having your mum around to nag you is actually a lot more useful than it is a pain in the ass.
I eventually got my act together and after a couple of emergencies and running in to the pharmacy to demand that “I needed insulin now” and them bending over backwards to help me, I got to grips with the skill of keeping an eye on what items I needed to order when, to ensure I had everything I needed and didn’t run out.
Pharmacies are very flexible with repeat prescription services these days, and have excellent ordering systems that make it a lot easier to complete. It’s still a pain in the arse though isn’t it? Having to take time out of your day to dig through your ‘medication’ box or cupboard (which all people with long-term conditions will have somewhere in the house – whether its the top shelve of your wardrobe, a box in the cupboard, a cabinet in the bathroom, or shoved in a drawer under your bed – we all have them!), and fill out the form, wait a couple of days, and then the physical act of going to the pharmacy to pick it up. It ends up being quite an inconvenience.
And that’s when it goes smoothly.
I left my beloved pharmacy that I had been using for around 10 years, to go and live in a different city. The transition actually went pretty well, considering I was moving to a different Health Board, system etc. It was when I moved back to my home city that things went a bit tits up. Moving back from Glasgow to Edinburgh was somehow more complicated. I registered with yet again, a different GP and pharmacy through here, and got myself organised.
I was asked to make an appointment with the GP as it was my first time with them, so went ahead and did just that. I told the Dr exactly what medication I was on and what I would need to request on my repeat prescription, and went on my way. When I got round to putting in this request, I was told to wait a couple of days for it to be ready to collect at my pharmacy – usual stuff, nothing new there.
Off I went to pop into the pharmacy, only to be told that the GP would not process my repeat prescription as they had no ‘proof’ that I was entitled to the items I had requested. As I said, I’m getting pretty good at this whole keeping track of what I’ve got, but that doesn’t mean I won’t run out of things, especially if they can’t keep up with thir end of the bargain and give me the things I need when I need them.
I was then asked by the pharmacy to go to my GP to sort it out. I walked 15 minutes along to the GP to be told that there wasn’t a Dr available to speak to me, and that they would give them a note to get in touch with me the next day. The next day was a Saturday, so I would have to wait until Monday, by which time I had counted that I would only have 1 test strip left (and this is assuming nothing unpredictable happens when you’re trying to manage type 1 diabetes – the most unpredictable monster out there!). I explained that it was important and that I would be very disappointed if I hadn’t heard from them on Monday morning. They agreed that they would make sure this happened. And it did. Although, I was then asked to book an appointment with the GP again and to bring a copy of my repeat prescription in with me.
Several hiccups occurred even after this shambles, but I won’t bore you with the details. The point is, nobody was helpful in this predicament, we were wasting each other’s time, and nobody listened to me and understood why I was getting anxious and upset about it. They gave me excuses at multiple times, and nobody took responsibility.
I have witnessed a lack of communication between pharmacies and GP surgeries a number of times, and it’s not getting any better, it’s getting worse. I said before, my childhood pharmacy went out of their way to help me, they knew me, my habits, and my condition.
I understand the importance of giving out the right prescriptions to patients, and that if this goes wrong, people can be put at risk. What went wrong for me however, was that nobody asked me what they could do to help. It became a blame game and I was the tennis ball bouncing from one side of the court to the other. I even got told that it was me who hadn’t done it right.
It has taken me 3 months to get this sorted out, and the only one putting in any effort is me. I need to keep myself alive, and I get that this is my responsibility, but it would be great if it was made just a wee bit easier for me. Instead of the pharmacy now knowing my name because they know me, they know me as ‘Dani – that nuisance girl who couldn’t get it right when ordering her prescription’
Dani is a 25 year old living in Edinburgh, she is studying radiotherapy and has Type 1 diabetes
Follow Dani @danianddanzel
This blog first appeared on Dani’s blog and was reproduced here with her permission.