skip to main content

Who can administer adrenaline auto-injectors in an emergency?

The law gives a very clear and simple answer to this question: ANYONE CAN.

In 2012 the Medicines Act was broadened to state that any lay person can administer adrenalin for the purpose of saving a life. Before 2012 the law stated that the lay person had to have been appropriately trained.

Article Contents:

  1. The Law in Detail - Human Medicine Regulations 2012
  2. What is an Adrenaline Auto-injector?
  3. What should I go on a training course if I don't have to?
  4. Level 2 Award in Basic Life Support and Anaphylaxis Management training course
  5. How to get a spare Adrenalin Auto-injector for a School
  6. Spare Inhalers in Schools
  7. Download Resources for Schools

The Law in Detail - Human Medicine Regulations 2012


Usually in the UK the Medicines Act means that a lay person cannot administer a prescription medication to another person. This is stated in Regulation 214:

(1) A person may not sell or supply a prescription only medicine except in accordance with a prescription given by an appropriate practitioner.

(2) A person may not parenterally administer (otherwise than to himself or herself) a prescription only medicine unless the person is—

(a)an appropriate practitioner other than an EEA health professional; or

(b)acting in accordance with the directions of such an appropriate practitioner.

The exception to this is the administration of specific prescription only medicines, including adrenaline, when the purpose is to save a life. This is stated in Regulation 238:

Administration of certain medicines in an emergency

Regulation 238. Regulation 214(2) does not apply to the administration of a prescription only medicine specified in Schedule 19 where this is for the purpose of saving life in an emergency.

Adrenaline is one of the drugs listed in Schedule 19.

What is an adrenaline auto-injector?

Once someone has suffered from a server allergic reaction they are commonly prescribed two adrenaline auto-injector pens to carry with them should the same thing happen again. People often refer to these injectors generically as "Epipens", however this is a specific brand of injector and there are two other common brands in use in the UK; Jext and Emerade.

Learn the differences between each of these devices by reading our article on How to use an adrenaline auto-injector.

Why should I train my staff / employees in how to administer adrenaline auto-injectors if the law doesn't require it?

Workplaces such as schools also have other statutory guidance which must be followed in order to support pupils at school with medical conditions. Any member of school staff may be asked to support pupils with medical conditions (such as anaphylaxis) and the school must ensure that the school staff taking on this role receive sufficient and suitable training and achieve the necessary level of competency before they take on this responsibility.

The ability of your staff to recognise the signs and symptoms of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction and their confidence to act promptly in administering treatment whilst the casualty's epipen is being located and once they have the medicine will be vastly improved by attending a training course.

If you are not a school but your employees commonly come into contact with people, not just other employees, who suffer from severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis and carry adrenalin auto-injectors then we would highly recommend that they are trained to both recognise the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and also to administer adrenaline auto-injectors.

Just because the law states than ANYONE CAN administer adrenaline in an emergency, life-saving situation certainly doesn't mean that ANYONE WILL actually recognise the severity of the situation and ACT PROMPTLY to help the casualty and potentially save their life. Training could be the difference between life and death!

Level 2 Award in Basic Life Support , Anaphylaxis Recognitions and Adrenalin Auto-injector training - 4 hour course

All React First trainers are skilled in the delivery of anaphylaxis training. Our anaphylaxis awareness and epi-pen first aid courses cover all of the training requirements of the Resuscitation Council (UK).

Course contents:

  • recognition and treatment of severe allergic reactions
  • communication and casualty care
  • dealing with an unconscious casualty
  • different types of auto-injector –  Epi-Pen, Jext and Emerade devices
  • correct use of an adrenalin auto-injector
  • CPR resuscitation – adult and child

The course is fully assessed meaning that all seccessful learners receive a certificate of competence which lasts for three years. Hence this course meets the Department for Education requirements that staff have received suitable training and also that they are competent. The full name of the qualification which is the title on your certificate is: Level 2 Award in Basic Life Support and Anaphylaxis Awareness. 

Visit our First Aid for Schools or First Aid at Work pages to read more about this course, prices and how to book.

How to get a Spare Adrenalin Auto-injector for a School

From 1 October 2017 the Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2017 will allow all schools to buy adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) devices without a prescription, for emergency use in children who are at risk of anaphylaxis but their own device is not available or not working (e.g. because it is broken, or out-of-date).

The school’s spare AAI should only be used on pupils known to be at risk of anaphylaxis, for whom both medical authorisation and written parental consent for use of the spare AAI has been provided.

The school’s spare AAI can be administered to a pupil whose own prescribed AAI cannot be administered correctly without delay. 

Schools must provide a written letter when ordering “spare” back-up adrenaline auto-injector devices.  In line with legislation, the order must state:

  • the name of the school for which the adrenaline auto-injector devices are required;
  • the purpose for which that devices are required; and
  • the total quantity required for each device.

Download the Department for Health Guidance on the use of adrenalin auto-injectors in schools from the resources below, page 25 has a letter template /sample letter to print on the schools letterhead and use to request a spare adrenalin auto-injector for your school.

Emergency Inhalers in Schools

You may also be interested to read more about recent other changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. Since 1st October 2014 inhalers containing salbutamol can be supplied in schools in an emergency by persons trained to administer them to pupils who are known to require such medication. Read more here >>

Download Resources for Schools

Download DfE Statutory Guidance Supporting Children at School with Medical Conditions

Download DfH Guidance on the use of adrenaline auto-injectors in schools - Sept 2017


Return to First Aid Tips List

Share this Tip