Medicines when you leave the hospice
When you leave the hospice, you may be given medicines to take with you. This information is for people who have been staying in a hospice as an inpatient. It may also help family, friends and carers to understand what will happen with your medicines and how they can help.
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You might be taking medicines to help control your illness, or manage your symptoms or side effects. You might be taking one type of medicine or several different medicines. It’s important to understand what each medicine is for and why you are taking it.
Your hospice will also give you written information about the medicines you’ve been given and what they’re for. They will also give you written information about when to take your medicines, how often to take them, and how much to take.
Each medicine also comes with instructions about how to take it and how to store it safely.
If you are not sure why you’ve been given a medicine or how you should take it, speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
How much medicine will I get from the hospice?
Your hospice will give you some medicines for you to take while you get another prescription from your GP. The amount that they give you can vary depending on the hospice and the type of medicines you’re taking. Ask your hospice how many days of medicines they’ve given you.
How do I get more medicines when I’m at home?
Your hospice will send your GP information about the medicines you’re taking in the post or by fax. This is sometimes called a ‘Discharge letter’ or ‘Treatment to take out (TTO) letter’.
Your hospice should also give you a copy of this discharge letter. It can be helpful for you to keep a list of the medicines you’ve been given, in case you speak to your GP before they see the letter from your hospice. If you haven’t been given a copy of your discharge letter, you can ask the hospice doctor, nurse or pharmacist to give you one.
These are the steps to get more medicines.
- Contact your GP to arrange your prescription soon after returning home. You might be able to do this over the phone or you might need to see your GP.
- Your GP will give you a prescription for the medicines.
- Take the prescription to a pharmacy to collect the medicines.
A friend or family member can help you organise and collect your prescription and medicines. Some pharmacies offer delivery services where they will collect the prescription from your GP and deliver the medicines to your home. Ask your pharmacy for more information about this.
It’s important that you don’t run out of medicines, as this could make your symptoms or side effects worse. It’s a good idea to contact your GP soon after leaving the hospice. Some GPs and pharmacies are closed at weekends and bank holidays, which could cause delays. If a pharmacy doesn’t have particular medicines in store, they may need to order it, which can take more time.
Occasionally, your GP may not be able to prescribe a medicine. This is because they are specialist medicines and can only be prescribed by a specialist team. If this is the case, your GP will let you know and tell you how to arrange your prescriptions.
Medicines that look or taste different, or are called different names
Sometimes the same medicine will have different names. For example, a medicine might have a brand name (the name given to the medicine by the company who developed it) and a generic name (the name of the active ingredient of the medicine).
Medicine can come in different forms that look or taste different (sometimes called different formulations). For example, the same medicine might be in a tablet form or in a capsule with powder inside.
Check the medicines you’ve been given are the ones you’ve been prescribed. If they look or taste different to normal, you can ask your GP, nurse or pharmacist about them.
How should I store medicines at home?
Each medicine will come with instructions about how to store it safely.
Most medicines need to be kept in a cool and dry place.
Find a safe place to store your medicines. It’s very important that you store them safely so that no one else takes them, either deliberately or by mistake. It can be dangerous for other people to take your medicines, especially children, older people or vulnerable people.
How do I dispose of leftover medicines?
If you’ve stopped taking your medicines, you may have some left over. There might also be medicines left over when someone dies. Or your medicines might go past their use-by date. You’ll need to dispose (get rid) of them.
Take any medicines that haven’t been used to a pharmacy, which will be able to dispose of them safely. If you’ve used needles to take your medicines, you will have been given a container to put them in (sometimes called a ‘sharps bin’). Ask your pharmacist, GP or district nurse what you should do with the container, as this can vary depending on where you live.
You shouldn’t keep leftover medicines. You also shouldn’t throw them in the rubbish bin, or flush them down the toilet.They could harm other people, animals or the environment.
Sometimes, people want to stop taking their medicines. This is usually because they don’t think the medicines are helping them or the medicines are causing side effects.
You should only stop taking medicines after getting advice from your GP, nurse or pharmacist. If you stop taking your medicines, you could get side effects or your symptoms could get worse.
If you’re not sure whether your medicines are helping you, your GP, nurse or pharmacist can give you more information about why you’ve been given the medicines.
If you’re having side effects, tell your GP, nurse or pharmacist. They may be able to change your medicines, change the dose (the amount that you’re taking), or help you manage the side effects.
You can use this checklist to record the things you might want to know or do before you leave the hospice.
- I’ve been given ______ days of medicine
- I know which medicines I need to take
- I know what each medicine is for
- I know when and how to take my medicines
- I know what the common side effects are
- I know what to do if I get side effects
- I know what to do if I want to stop taking my medicines
- I’ve spoken with my GP about getting more medicines
- I know how to dispose of my medicines
It can help to write down the details about who you should contact if you have questions about your medicines or side effects after you leave the hospice. Make sure you know who to call if you have any problems at evenings or weekends. If you’re not sure who this should be, ask the hospice staff or your GP.
If you’re not sure, you can contact:
- your GP
- your local out-of-hours service at evenings or weekends
- your community or district nurses
- your local pharmacy
- the NHS helpline (111 in England and Scotland, 0845 46 47 or 111 in Wales).
Marie Curie’s Information and Support team has produced this information with help from:
- Hospice Manager, Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool
- Lead Nurse, Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool
- Library team, Marie Curie
- Our Readers’ Panel volunteers
- Pharmacist, Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast
- Pharmacist, Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool
- Pharmacist, Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands
- Pharmacist, Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford
- Volunteers, Marie Curie Hospice, Newcastle.
It's not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.
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