What to do out of hours – including evenings, weekends and bank holidays

If you feel unwell when your GP surgery is closed (evenings, weekends and bank holidays), it can be confusing where to turn to for help. If you're unsure what's wrong, our symptom checkers can help. If you need advice on medication or illness, a pharmacist is the best place to start.  You can find your nearest pharmacy here.

Our website has lots of information to advise you on how to stay well in winterhow to look after a sick child and how to manage minor health concerns such as the common cold, a headache and cough.

If you have run out of your prescribed medication you can use our Accessing Medicines guide to find out where to get help.

You can also find advice and information on our website about Strep A and scarlet fever.

Planning ahead

It's important to plan ahead for times like bank holidays, as your GP surgery may be closed, and your usual pharmacy may be closed or have altered opening hours. Check with them in plenty of time so you are aware of any changes. Please also make sure you have all the medicines you may require ahead of bank holiday weekends. Whether it is everyday medication like paracetamol or cough remedies, or getting your prescription filled. It is also worth making sure you have any other items you might need in hand – for instance, first aid kit contents such as plasters and antiseptic cream, contraceptives or other treatments you require. Make sure that you order any medication at least seven days before you need it, and make sure you collect your medication in plenty of time from the pharmacy as they may have different opening times from normal. A pharmacist should be your first port of call for any information about medication or prescriptions during any out of hours period. Your usual pharmacy may be closed during this time, but you can search for an open pharmacy near you here.

If you run out of medicine outside of your GP surgery's normal opening hours and need some urgently, here are some ways you may be able to get supply quickly, even if you're away from home.

If you have a prescription

If your local pharmacy is closed, you can get your medicine from any pharmacist with your prescription, as long as it's in stock. Find other nearby pharmacies and their opening hours here.

If you do not have a prescription

If you run out of prescription medicine and do not have a prescription with you, you may be able to obtain an emergency supply from a pharmacist without a prescription. You should take an old prescription/repeat slip or the medicine packaging with you to the pharmacy, if you have it.

You'll be assessed by the pharmacist to find out:

  • If you need the medicine immediately.
  • Who previously prescribed the medicine (to make sure they're a trusted source).
  • What dose of the medicine would be appropriate for you to take.

The pharmacist needs to know the answers to these questions before they can supply a prescription–only medicine, without a prescription, in an emergency. They will keep a record of your details, the medicine they provide and the nature of the emergency.

If the pharmacist is not satisfied that the medicine and dose is appropriate for you, they may not supply the medicine.

The pharmacist may provide an emergency supply of up to 30 days' treatment for most prescription medicines, with these exceptions:

  • Insulin, an ointment, a cream or an asthma inhaler – only the smallest pack size will be supplied
  • The contraceptive pill – only enough for a full treatment cycle will be supplied
  • Liquid oral antibiotics – only the smallest quantity to provide a full course of treatment will be supplied

Only a limited range of controlled medicines can be prescribed in an emergency, such as those for epilepsy (phenobarbital). Many commonly used controlled medicines, such as morphine or diamorphine, cannot be supplied without a prescription by a pharmacist in an emergency. However, a pharmacist is the best person to speak to, even in this situation.

If you do not need a prescription

If you need a non–prescription medicine, such as paracetamol or an antacid, and you cannot find an open pharmacy, the following places may stock a basic range of over–the–counter medicines: supermarkets, newsagents and petrol stations. These places often have longer opening hours than high–street pharmacies.

If you do need further support, call 111. However please bear in mind that our service can be exceptionally busy during times like bank holidays.