This programme has now closed but you may find the below resources useful. Please note the information on this webpage was correct at the time of publication.

Medicines Compliance Aids (MCA’s) have many different names and brands (e.g., dosette boxes), but are generally reusable plastic containers for storing medicines, divided into compartments by day and/or time. MCAs can be supplied and filled by the patient/carer or dispensed prefilled by a pharmacy. They are often perceived as the preferred aid/adjustment for patients facing difficulties taking their medication and/or those taking multiple medicines (known as polypharmacy) – however following proper assessment other alternatives may be deemed more suitable.

An assessment should be used when a patient presents with a compliance problem with their prescribed medicine, or a request is made for a patient to have the presentation of their medication adjusted (e.g., from the patient, carer, GP or other healthcare professional). There are many ways to promote people’s independence and use of original packs of medicines including easy-to-open packaging, reminder sheets and/or large print labels.

A standardised assessment tool has been developed to allow a judgment to be made on how best to adjust the presentation of the patient’s medication. The assessment can be completed by trained healthcare professionals in line with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) recommendations. It should be signed off by the pharmacist responsible for supplying the medication, and can be used to determine what (if any) reasonable adjustment is required under the Equality Act (2010).

Resources to support healthcare professionals

Resources to support patients, carers and families

What are the concerns about use of MCAs?

“MCAs do not always simplify how people take their medicines.

When people need additional medicines support to continue to be independent, it may be necessary to have a medication review to simplify their medicines regimen”.

Care Quality Commission: Multi-compartment compliance aids (MCAs) in adult social care (May 2022)

There is currently a lack of regulation around the use of MCAs, however both NICE and the RPS agree that there is not sufficient evidence that MCAs improve medication adherence for their widespread use to be recommended. Studies have shown there are a number of risks associated with their regular use, including pharmacist error and reduced stability of some medicines once removed from their original packaging.

Watch our video for healthcare professionals on reasonable adjustments, including MCAs:

National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) data from the first half of 2018 showed 507 patient safety incidents involving MCA-related terms.

MCAs are also very labour intensive for pharmacists, who do not receive funding for preparing them as part of their contract. MCAs can produce unnecessary waste if changes are made to prescriptions.

MCAs can also cause confusion for patients, carers and families when there are changes to medication (for example after a new illness or hospital admission) and in situations where patients may only need to take medication for a defined period. Patients/carers can become confused about which tablet treats which condition and are therefore unable to reduce or stop the correct medication as a result. This can lead to the patient and/or their carer feeling a lack of ownership or control about their medication.

Watch our video for patients, carers and families on the importance of discussing any medication concerns, and potential reasonable adjustments, with pharmacy teams:

In this short video AHSN Network polypharmacy clinical lead and pharmacist, Clare Howard, highlights the value of our resources and signposting patients with questions or concerns about taking their medicines to community pharmacy.

Regional stakeholders, including within our Local Pharmaceutical Committees, are keen to promote the range of reasonable adjustments for eligible patients and improve patient safety around polypharmacy.

Additional Resources

Get involved in our medicines work

If you have any questions about our MCA project or the resources we have developed, please contact Chris Learoyd, Senior Project Manager.

You can also explore our polypharmacy project which includes a local community of practice and our current and past medicines optimisation work.

Please visit our events listings to find details of upcoming training and webinars.

You can also sign-up to receive our monthly newsletter.

Medicines organiser

Medicines optimisation

The medicines optimisation programme aims to help patients get the maximum benefit from their medicines and reduce waste.

Read more

Medicines Safety Improvement Programme

Find out about our work to improve Medicines Safety.

Read more