Repeat Prescription Collection

Repeat prescriptions are a big part of the daily workload in a GP Practice. Patients depend on getting them on a regular basis and it is vital that they are correct and issued within the 24/48 hour practice policy.

Patients have never had it easier to ensure that they get their request for a repeat prescription in on time for it to be ready for them to collect. Here are some of the ways that patients can request a repeat prescription (not all of these options might be suitable for your surgery)

  • Bringing the repeat prescription into the surgery 24/48 hours prior to collection (and if the surgery is closed the repeat prescription can be posted through the letterbox)
  • Dropping off their prescription at their local chemist who will then bring the prescription along to the Surgery.
  • Having their repeat prescription delivered to their local chemist for them to collect
  • Requesting a prescription via telephone (not all surgeries have this facility)
  • Emailing a request via the Surgery email (not all surgeries have this facility)
  • Sending in a request through the post (ensure that patients enclose a stamped addressed envelope for its return)

The above has made it a lot easier for patients that are working to be able to request their repeat prescriptions in time – a visit to the surgery is not always necessary.  Most Surgeries are opened from early morning to late afternoon/evening to enable patients to collect repeat prescriptions, and if this is not suitable the patient can provide a stamped addressed envelope for its return.

So, why is it that patient STILL continuing on a regular daily basis to come rushing in demanding a repeat prescription there and then?  As a Receptionist you will know exactly what I mean. You will find the patient will stand at the desk demanding their repeat prescription, and telling you that if you do not give it to them NOW they will probably die! Yes it happens, and of course we are not in a position to refuse them their medication and the patient knows that.

And what you will find it will be the same people month in and month out that are doing this every time, and more often than not it will be people who are not working and have plenty of time to come in on other days – preferably with plenty of notice.

What the patent does not realise is the extra work that this “urgent” repeat prescription can cause.

One Surgery that I worked in could have up to 160 repeat prescriptions to process ever day. This would involve a prescription clerk processing the prescriptions, flagging up any queries with the doctors, phoning hospitals to query changes to patient’s medications, and updating the computer system for patients that needed to come in for checks i.e. Asthma, Blood Pressure and Diabetics etc.

The prescriptions would then have to be checked and signed by the doctor and when that had been done them all files into alphabetical order ready for collection. This is not a 5 minute job.

So, when a patient comes in demanding their prescription there and then this is what it takes to get this prescription done

  • The receptionist will have to generate the prescription which means that she will have to put aside the work she is already doing.
  • The Receptionist then has to go and stand outside a Doctors room to wait on a patient coming out before she can ask the Doctor to sign the prescription. Any Receptionist having to do this will tell you that they could be standing outside a room for anything up to 15 minutes.
  • This then makes a shortage of receptionists in reception – causing patient to wait longer to be seen or worse still the telephones not being answered.

And what is unfair is the patient that is not following Practice policy is actually being put first and those patients that are following the policy are waiting 24/48 hours when in fact they could have done exactly the same thing.

How would your Surgery cope if you had half of your patients demanding repeat prescriptions in such a way?

This was highlighted as becoming a problem in one of the surgeries I worked in. The Receptionists seemed to spend more time standing outside the Doctors rooms waiting on “urgent” prescriptions being signed, and the Doctors were getting pretty fed up being asked to sign and check these requests on a daily basis.

I discussed this issue at a Team meeting – and it was agreed that we could not refuse a patient their prescription as they needed their medication. And we all agreed that there were often genuine cases where people had run out and not realised it and these we fully understood – what we needed to try to solve was the same patients that were coming in on a regular basis demanding their prescriptions there and then.

So, we agreed on a policy which we implemented and it worked.

We agreed when a patient came into the surgery “demanding” their repeat prescription that we would explain our policy of 24/48 hours notice, but would tell the patient that on this occasion we would get their prescription done – but it would not be ready until after 4.30 that same day.  This meant that the patient had to come back to the surgery to collect the prescription and hopefully make them think twice next time and hopefully start using the correct system.

Of course we would not have done this is someone did have difficulty getting back, or if they were disabled  – but it was not these patients that were causing us the problem  – it was often fit or young patients that could quite easily come back later on that day. It was not our aim to refuse or be difficult but to try to re educate these patients so that everyone was given the same service.

To begin with we had patients that were not happy – after all they were used to getting it done there and then. But this system did work – those that were genuine were only too happy to call back again at 4.30 and those that were taking advantage soon realised that perhaps they should get their repeat prescription in 24/48 hours earlier.

Within a couple of months the only requests we got were from the odd few patients that did have genuine reasons to request as urgent prescription.