COVID-19: Accessing medication for mental health

Disclaimer: This resource provides information, not advice. Please read the full disclaimer at the end of this resource.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS is running differently. For example, many more appointments and consultations are being provided over the telephone and by video. But you can still find help and advice about your mental health and medication.  

This information should help to address any concerns about your medication in terms of getting hold of it, whether appointments or services will still be in place, and what this all means for you. 

Should I keep taking my medication? 

It is understandable to be worried about how COVID-19 might affect your mental health medication – or any medication. But, for the moment, do keep taking it as prescribed. Don’t stop taking it, unless you have spoken to your usual doctor, GP or another health professional involved in your care. The best person to contact will be the one who is responsible for your care. This might be a GP, mental health nurse, pharmacist or another health professional if you are under the care of a mental health team, such as your care coordinator or key worker. They can discuss any queries about your medication with your doctor.  

What do I do if I want to change my medication? 

Try not to make any changes to the amount of medication you take, or when you take it, unless you have first spoken with your doctor, GP, or another professional involved in your care. Speak to them about any questions or concerns you have, including if you would like to make a change.  

What do I do if I run out of medication? 

If you are worried your medication will run out – or you have already run out – contact your doctor or the pharmacist who usually supplies your medication, as soon as possible.  

Give your doctor plenty of notice to prepare your prescription as services may take a bit longer than usual. You should always contact your doctor or another health professional involved in your care if you have any concerns about your medication, before you make any changes. 

How do I continue to get hold of my medication? 

If you are staying at home but do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 (a new, continuous, dry cough and fever), you can still leave home to collect your medication, making sure that you observe the government’s social distancing guidelines.  

Can I get my medication in larger batches to reduce how often I need to go to the pharmacy? 

You will have to ask your usual doctor or GP, to see if they can prescribe you larger batches of medication to last you for a longer period. However, this might not be possible because: 

Some medications have limits on how much can be supplied in one go. 

You may need frequent reviews of your treatment.  

Can I have my medication posted to me? 

If you are at high risk from COVID-19, or have some symptoms of the virus, don’t go to your pharmacy. Here are some options as to what you can do instead:  

If you have family, friends, a neighbour or a carer, they may be able to collect it for you.  

There are now local organisations who can help, like COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK, if you give permission for the pharmacy to deliver it. 

The health service is helping pharmacies to post or deliver prescriptions, so your pharmacy may be able to do this.  

If you are cared for by a mental health team, your care coordinator or key worker may be able to collect your prescription for you. 

How can I get medication quickly if I am experiencing a crisis? 

You should contact a health professional if you are experiencing a crisis. Follow the advice you have been given, which may be to contact your GP or someone on your mental health team such as your care coordinator or key worker, if you are experiencing a crisis.  

If this is happening outside working hours, you can call: 

  • your local Trust emergency number (not all Trusts have this)

  • your local mental health crisis team, if this is available out of hours

  • your GP out-of-hours phoneline

  • NHS 111. 

If this is happening during working hours, you can call: 

  • your GP, and ask for an urgent prescription or appointment
  • your mental health team, and ask to speak to your care coordinator or key worker. 

Don’t go to A&E unless you really have no other option available. 

The NHS website has further information for people about dealing with a mental health crisis. 

Is it safe for me to touch the packaging of my medication? 

The pharmacist who prepared your medication will have followed standard procedures to make sure that it is safe. You can clean the outer packaging with a household disinfectant cleaning spray or wipe. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching any boxes. It is especially important that you wash your hands thoroughly before taking any medication.  

The government has issued advice on cleaning in non-healthcare settings, such as your home. It includes information on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and what protective equipment should be worn. 

I usually have my medication by depot injection, will I still be able to get this? 

Yes – but you may need to speak with your doctor, nurse or key worker to arrange where and when you will have the injection, and to discuss how to reduce the risk of infection. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 as outlined on the NHS website, speak to your doctor, nurse or key worker. They will agree with you whether you should receive your depot as usual, whether the dose could be increased so that you can receive it less often, or whether it might be better to wait a while. Your doctor should write this down in your care plan and make sure other people involved in your care know what is happening. 

I take medication(s) that require me to have physical health monitoring, such as having regular blood tests. Will this still go ahead? 

The NHS is working hard to ensure that essential appointments can be kept. However, some routine appointments may be cancelled or re-scheduled while we are being asked to stay at home.  

Most appointments will now be held via telephone or video call, where possible, rather than face to face. The service you use might ask you to monitor your physical health at home where possible to reduce risks, or your doctor may review how often your tests will be done.  

In some situations, you may not be able to self-monitor at home – a professional in a health setting may need to do certain kinds of monitoring for you (such as blood tests). Ask your doctor or mental health team to arrange how or where appointments and tests can happen.  

If there is a change to your normal check-up arrangements, your care plan should be updated. If any changes have been made to a scheduled appointment, including check-ups, the service should contact you to tell you about this. If you are unsure about anything to do with your appointment, contact your doctor or the team involved in your care.  

Will I still be able to have medication review appointments, if needed? 

If you want to have your medication reviewed, contact your doctor or the mental health team you see to arrange this. They should already have put in place ways of reducing the risk of infection by COVID-19, and should tell you if any changes have been made to a scheduled medication review. If you are unsure about how this will now happen, contact your service. Most teams can now offer a telephone review or video consultation, instead of a face-to-face review.  

The government advice currently states that you can leave the house for any medical need, such as an appointment with your doctor. 

Will my medication(s) pose any additional risk to me if I get COVID-19? 

Your doctor or other professional involved in your care will be able to help you answer any questions about your health and medication. They will also be able to tell you if there is anything that you need to be aware of with your medication. COVID-19 may affect people differently, depending on what medication they are taking, their age, and other medical conditions they have.  

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, carry on with your current medication routine unless advised not to by your doctor or a health professional involved in your care. If you have any concerns about your medication, speak to your doctor before making any changes. 

If you are having symptoms of COVID-19 (a new, continuous, dry cough and fever) as outlined on the NHS website, follow the advice to stay at home. Telephone your doctor or another health professional involved in your mental health care for advice on the effects this may have on your medication. You should do this before making any changes to your medication, and should only make changes in line with advice from a health professional.  

Is it okay for me to take paracetamol and/or ibuprofen? 

Paracetamol

The current medical advice for most people is to take paracetamol to treat COVID-19 symptoms – unless a health professional has advised you not to take paracetamol.

Ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • There is currently no scientific evidence that ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will increase your susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 or having worse symptoms. However, such drugs may interact with some mental health medications. So, before taking ibuprofen (or any other NSAID), always check that it is safe for you to take alongside your existing medication.
  • If you are already taking ibuprofen or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of your doctor, don’t stop without checking with them first.

If you have any concerns about taking any kind of painkiller to manage COVID-19 symptoms, ask your doctor, or a health professional involved in your care, for advice.  

How can I tell the difference between side-effects of my medication and symptoms of COVID-19? 

Some symptoms associated with COVID-19 (such as tiredness and aches/pains) can be side-effects of some medications. Having these symptoms on their own does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19.  

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and a new, continuous, dry cough. If you are having such symptoms, do follow the government and NHS advice. The NHS has set up a special service called NHS 111 online where you can check if you have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also contact your doctor or a health professional involved in your care for help and advice.  

The mental health charity Mind provides some useful information about side effects of medications for mental health. Rethink is another charity which also provides useful information about medication.

Young Minds and MindEd are useful websites that provide mental health information for young people and parents/carers.   

Disclaimer

This resource provides information, not advice.  

The content in this resource is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not, amount to advice which you should rely on. It is not in any way an alternative to specific advice.  You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this resource.

If you have questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider without delay.  

If you think you are experiencing any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or other professional healthcare provider.  

Although we make reasonable efforts to compile accurate information in our resources and to update the information in our resources, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in this resource is accurate, complete or up to date.