I sometimes feel a little bit vulnerable. I know this is a bit silly but there was a programme on the BBC in the 1970’s called ‘Survivors’. All I can remember about it is that the people survived some sort of terrible disaster and had to solve all sorts of problems to live. I absolutely know this sounds dramatic but I occasionally think about what would happen if that happened for real. I know the answer – I would die because I need my insulin to live. When I think this I get a bit scared and uncomfortable even though I know it’s silly. I was clearly very impressionable as a child/young person and maybe should have been banned from some TV programmes!
This blog is all about my prescriptions – the way I get insulin to live. They are, and always have been, a real issue for me. I have worked since I was 16 with no break except around 4 months off when I had my son. I have never had a job that was less than 10 miles away from where I live, more often than not its been more and therefore not close to my GP. I depend on my insulin to survive and yet over the years the trouble I have to go to to get my prescriptions makes me sad and frustrated. I don’t want to take time off work to go and pick up my prescription or even drop off the request and yet sometimes it appears there is no other option at all, at least at my practice. The practice staff don’t seem to understand that whilst I need prescriptions to live I’m not really ill and go to work and can’t just ‘pop down after 10’. I do understand too that there are procedures to follow but I really feel that they just don’t ‘get’ what this is all about for patients, a view that was reinforced recently when someone on Twitter was equally upset when someone refused her a prescription for her insulin.
And before you all start saying its about ‘planning’ and being ‘responsible’ thats fine, but sometimes life sort of gets in the way. I’ve been on the same medication for years. I try really hard not to waste anything at all. I understand medicines and test strips are expensive; I’m very grateful I truly am and I try hard to remember and plan.
So what has this got to do with my crying? Well I have never cried over anything to do with my diabetes except one time when I was close to running out of insulin and I had to ring the doctors to request an urgent prescription. And before anyone starts to judge I’ve only ever run out of insulin once in 33 years – I’m not a serial offender! I’m human like anyone else and I could have sworn there was a vial in the fridge – it turns out I was mistaken. When I rang the doctors I virtually had to beg. I was so upset when I came off the phone I burst into tears with frustration and anger. You see, insulin really matters!
Over the last 33 years I must have had hundreds of prescriptions and for a long time it went like this: every 6-8 weeks, Sunday evening walk down to docs and drop repeat request slip in, wait the designated 3 days and then try to arrange for someone to pick it up, if I couldn’t do it myself. Take to the pharmacy and hope they have restocked from last time. They usually have some of my insulin but will probably need to order more, so I would have to go back again to collect the second lot. Can you imagine how much time this all takes?
The best thing that ever happened was when I let my pharmacist take more control over my prescriptions and so on. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. They are just so efficient and helpful and stand between me and the practice and negoitiate on my behalf. When I recently told them how grateful I was they just said they had to provide a good service as if they didn’t I would go somewhere else; they are right but I don’t because they are amazing.
I know some people think that online access to appointments and prescriptions is a ‘fad’ and perhaps is a ‘nice to have’ but I just can’t express how important it is to me. If I could request my repeat remotely while I am working and indicate where I would like to pick it up I can’t tell you how amazing that would be.
Living with diabetes is complex. Its a crazy mix of clinical skill, lifestyle choices and, well it affects nearly everything. But of all of the things over 33 years that have made me cry with frustration it’s repeat prescriptions. I can’t wait for my practice to go electronic!
My blog this week feels a bit negative – theres a challenge; a positive blog next week then! Lets hope its the next part of the CGM story!
Having worked on and off on what we know call EPS since 1986 (yes 24 years) I’ve always been amazed and how little weight has been put on the benefits to patients of sorting out the truly appalling process that is the supply of repeat medication is from the patient’s perspective. As someone who has become a user of repeat medication in recent years (although not as critically dependant as Annie) my recent experience has only reinforced this view and it would be good to see repeat dispensing with EPS2 widely implemented, but fear that this won’t quite happen before I get to my 25th anniversary.
I know your pain! Our new surgery is now electronic Sainsbury’s picks up and is open to 10pm. I breathe, his heart still beats! (regularly)
This is the way forward too….
Thanks for the interesting blogpost.
The one time I ran out of insulin, I’d just moved house and hadn’t had time to register with a new doctor (it was over a long weekend). A really nice pharmacist was happy to help and advanced me the insulin after I left a small deposit. I think pharmacists are allowed to dispense ’emergency supplies’ to people who are on repeat prescriptions if ever you find yourself short again.
What I find troubling is the push for GPs to prescribe only a month’s supply of any medicine. For people on insulin and other hormone replacement therapies (eg. Levothyroxine, steroids, desmopressin, HGH) this is very difficult as we will never not be dependent on our drugs. It is a major hassle to have to get these prescriptions arranged with the GP and then with the pharmacist on a monthly basis, particularly if your life is dependent on more than one drug.
I’ve had many lovely tweets about this post, both from other people who are on regular medication (of varying types) and also healthcare professionals.
One thing I’m clear about here is that pharmacists come out as the hero of the story (they do for me too) and that electronic prescriptions are the way to go.
Thank you everyone for your contributions.
Anne just thinking – would emailing rx requests work. We do this, it’s great. People email in their request, we do the script, pharmacy of your choice collects, then you go there to pick it up. I love it as a patient and a doctor. How about asking your practice to think about it?
Thank you for your comment. I have asked re emailing to no avail, they seem very attahced to their existing processes and paper! But following the response I received to my blog I’ve decided not to be quite so passive (I’m not usually known for that characteristic!) and I’m going to try giving some feedback (in a sensitive way) to see if I can help. Thank you for taking the time to respond.