Self or carer administration of medicines in hospital

Self or carer administration allows you or your carer to be responsible for taking or giving your medicines while you are in hospital. This scheme helps you to:

  • stay independent by taking your medicines as you do at home
  • learn more about your medicines and how to use them safely

Administering medicine yourself or by a carer might be helpful if you need to take it at set times or at short notice. For example, if you take insulin for diabetes.

You can talk to your nurse, midwife or pharmacist about self or carer administration. If you'd like to take part, they can explain how the scheme works in more detail.

If you or your carer decide not to take part, the nurse or midwife will give you the medicines while you are in hospital. 

Even if you don't take part in the scheme, we'll always give you information about any new medicines. A nurse, midwife, member of the pharmacy team or your doctor will explain new medicines or changes to your medicines to you and your carer. This will include what the medicines are for, how to take them and any special things you may need to know.

Who can self-administer

The healthcare professional that you speak to checks that you or your carer can take part in the scheme. They check:

  • the reason for your hospital stay
  • how you take your medicines at home
  • any problems or concerns that you might have with taking or giving medicines
  • your understanding of the medicines that you need to take or give

Your current medical condition might mean that you cannot take part in the scheme or that you need more support. The hospital team talks to you about this. If you cannot take part in the scheme, your nurse or midwife will give you your medicines during your hospital stay.

If you can self-administer

If the checks show that you or your carer can take part in the scheme, you or your carer will:

  • be asked to sign a consent form
  • be given a key or fob to your bedside medicines locker (we ask you to sign when you take and give back the key or fob)
  • be told which medicines you will take or give
  • be given a leaflet to remind you how to take or give the medicines
  • be given a sharps bin for the used needles if you have injections of medicines, such as insulin

You can take the medicines that you have from home if they are suitable. The hospital pharmacy give you other medicines that you need.

Each medicine container has your name, the name of the medicine and instructions on how to take it. The nurse or midwife asks you or your carer which medicines you have taken. If you take medicines with a dose (amount) that changes like insulin, please tell the nurses what dose you actually had.

If you or your carer forget which medicines you have had, please speak to your nurse, midwife or a member of pharmacy staff. You can also ask them any questions about your medicines.

You or your carer can choose to stop this scheme at any time. Just tell the nurse or midwife.

If you cannot self-administer for a short time

You might need to stop taking part in the self-administration scheme for a short time. This could be because:

  • you become less well
  • you need to have an anaesthetic (a medicine that stops you from feeling pain during a procedure)
  • your carer is not available to give you the medicines 

If this happens, the nurse or midwife will give your medicines until you can take them yourself again or your carer is available.

Your carer needs to tell your nurse if they cannot give you any doses of medicine.

Your responsibilities if you self-administer

Here are some tips to help keep yourself and those around you safe.


  • check all of your medicines and your bedside medicines locker before you go home
  • return your bedside medicines storage key or fob before you go home
  • allow a member of pharmacy staff to check all of your medicines and your medicines locker during your stay and before you leave hospital to replenish any that are low or discontinued

Tell the doctor, nurse, midwife or member of pharmacy staff:

  • if you have new side effects, straight away
  • the dose that you have taken for any medicines where the amount changes, such as insulin
  • if you or your carer have any problems taking or giving your medicines
  • if you or your carer lose your bedside medicines locker key or fob
  • if you do not have much left of any medicine
  • if a visitor or another patient tries to take your medicines


  • do not take more medicine than the dose on the label
  • do not take any medicine that you are unsure about
  • do not store anything apart from your medicines inside your bedside medicines locker
  • do not leave your bedside medicines locker unlocked, even for a short time
  • do not give your bedside medicines locker key or fob to a family member, visitor or another patient
  • do not share your medicines with anyone else

Resource number: 3321/VER5
Last reviewed: March 2023
Next review due: March 2026

Contact us

If you have any questions about the self-administration of medicines scheme, please speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

You can also contact the pharmacy medicines helpline.

Phone: 020 7188 8748, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: [email protected]

We try to respond to emails within 2 working days.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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