Your rights when it comes to medication

After diagnosis, your doctor will most likely prescribe a combination of medications, alongside talk therapy, counselling or CBT. While all of this information can feel overwhelming, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to your medication.

Medications are there to help you, first and foremost. They are there to help manage symptoms which may be adversely affecting your life, or that you may find distressing.

However, sometimes you might feel that medication is not right for you, or that you want to try something different.

Talking to your doctor about the options available

Doctors should always be open and honest with you about what they are prescribing and why. Do not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how simple they may seem – it is important that you understand what you are being prescribed and why. The doctor should check you understand what they are prescribing, and listen to any concerns you might have.

If you want to try a different approach, or a different medication, your doctor should discuss that option with you. You can also talk to your doctor about other options, such as different medications, different types of therapy or self-help.

You might be concerned that if you refuse treatment the doctor may make you go to hospital. Under the Mental Health Act 1983, the doctor can only detain you for treatment if you refuse treatment, and that puts you or others at risk.

If you disagree with your doctor

In the first instance, talk to the doctor about your concerns, they should listen to your concerns and address them accordingly. If you are uncomfortable voicing your concerns, you can take someone to an appointment with you, or you can write to your doctor with your concerns and questions.

You could also ask to speak with a different doctor, and get a second opinion.

If you feel that your doctor is not listening to your concerns, or you are not happy with the outcome, you can make a complaint. Your doctor’s office should provide you with the information on how to make a complaint.

What to do if you don’t want medication

You always have a choice in your treatment – you can refuse medication if you don’t want to take it. Before making any decisions about taking medication you should already have discussed the benefits and risks involved, and other treatment options.

You have the right to refuse medication, but please ensure you have discussed the medication fully and are aware of all the facts before making this decision.

The only exception to this is if you are detained under the Mental Health Act, where doctors can give you medication even if you disagree. Even in this situation, doctors must discuss your treatment with you and ensure you understand why you are taking the medication and what the benefits and risks are.

What to do if I have a serious concern over my doctor’s behaviour

If you think that your doctor has behaved unprofessionally, or inappropriately, you can make a complaint to the General Medical Council – the GMC is the governing body for doctors.

You should only complain to the GMC about unprofessional or inappropriate behaviour – for example, if the doctor has commited a crime, is lying or has made a serious mistake with your medication.