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Nigel's surgery 9: Emergency medicines for GP practices

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  • Organisations we regulate

What emergency medicines should be available to GPs in their practices and in the doctor’s home visit bag?

The doctor’s bag

GPs need the knowledge, skills, and equipment for managing medical emergencies. They also need to carry a range of drugs for use in acute situations when on home visits.

Exactly which drugs they should carry is dependent on the practice. For example, the drugs required by a remote and rural GP may be different from drugs required by an inner-city GP.

The choice of what to include in the GP's bag is decided by the:

  • medical conditions they are likely to face
  • medicines they are confident in using
  • storage requirements
  • shelf-life
  • extent of ambulance paramedic cover
  • proximity of the nearest hospital
  • availability of a 24-hour pharmacy

In the practice

Practices should consider where a patient presenting with an emergency condition would be managed. They should make sure this place would be appropriate. Drugs in the practice to help manage medical emergencies should be held in safe and appropriate storage conditions.

This list is based on current practice. It is modified from two Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletins in 2015, and stakeholder engagement with medical directors of several GP practices.

This is not intended to be either exhaustive or mandatory. The final decision needs to be taken in context so choices/omissions can be professionally justifiable, and risk assessed.

Suggested list of emergency drugs for GP practices

Drug Indication
Adrenaline for injection Anaphylaxis or acute angio-oedema
Antiemetic – cyclizine, ondansetron, metoclopramide or prochlorperazine Nausea and vomiting
Aspirin soluble tablets Suspected myocardial infarction
Atropine for practices that fit coils or perform minor surgery Bradycardia
Benzylpenicillin for injection Suspected bacterial meningitis
Chlorphenamine for injection Anaphylaxis or acute angio-oedema
Dexamethasone 5mg/2.5ml oral solution- requires date opened stick and new expiry once seal broken Croup (children)
Diclofenac (intramuscular injection) Analgesia
Furosemide Left ventricular failure
Glucagon (needs refrigeration. GlucaGen® Hypokit® has an 18 month expiry out of fridge-should be labelled with new expiry date) or alternative medicine to treat hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia
Glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray or unopened in date GTN sublingual tablets Chest pain of possible cardiac origin
Hydrocortisone for injection and/or soluble prednisolone Acute severe asthma, severe or recurrent anaphylaxis
Midazolam (buccal) or diazepam (rectal) Epileptic fit
Naloxone (see section below) Opioid overdose
Opiates – diamorphine, morphine or pethidine ampoules for injection. (Water for injection may be required to reconstitute) Severe pain including myocardial infarction

Salbutamol either nebules with a nebuliser or inhaler with Volumatic and ipratropium bromide (children) - consider strengths stocked.

Asthma

Naloxone

  • Naloxone is a medicine used to reverse the effects of opiates.
  • Providers who stock opiates either in the practice or in the doctors bag should also stock naloxone.

Other providers should risk assess the need to stock Naloxone based on their patient group. For example, do they provide services for patients with addiction? May patients present with opiate related problems?

Additional medicines

This list is not exhaustive. It may be necessary for a GP surgery to carry additional medicines based on the needs of the local population and local arrangements for services. For example district nurses, palliative care and substance misuse. This should be risk assessed.

On inspection

We would expect to see evidence that an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out. This is to identify a list of medicines that are not suitable for a practice to stock, and how this is kept under review. There should be a process and system in place to check that drugs are in date and equipment is well maintained.

This comes under key line of enquiry S4 in our healthcare assessment framework.

More information

Last updated:
08 September 2020