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Talking about medication

Up to half of medicines for treating long-term conditions are not taken as prescribed. Sometimes patients don't want to take the medicines because of worries about side effects. In other cases, practical problems - such as not being able to open the packaging - could be to blame. Or, as Alison Bowser, service user representative on NICE's guideline development group, explained: "The reason why a patient can't take a particular medicine may be because their hectic lifestyle may make it difficult to take medicines at the same time each day."*

In January 2009 NICE published guidance for healthcare professionals on the importance of involving patients in decisions about prescribed medicines - even if that means accepting a patient's informed decision to refuse medication.

It takes two-way communication to help patients understand how a medicine could improve their disease or condition and voice any concerns they might have. The key is to establish the most effective way of communicating. If necessary, NICE says,
consider using pictures, symbols or an interpreter where language is a barrier.

Healthcare professionals should be non-judgemental in their assessments, prepared to listen to patients' concerns and ready to offer a follow-up review to patients who choose not to take medication.

Alison Bowser highlighted the need for dialogue: "Many patients feel that if they approach their healthcare professional about failure to take their medicines, they will be told off. The good thing about this guidance is that it opens a path to renegotiate how the patient and healthcare professional communicate about medicine."

This page was last updated: 10 August 2009

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Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.