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Guide to NHS Repeat Prescriptions

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

So many of us rely on repeat prescriptions and it can become quite confusing when you start, or when the number of prescriptions you have to keep track of increases.

But fear not, Healthera is here to make it an awful lot easier!

Just in case, I’ve laid out the answers to the most important and frequently asked questions surrounding repeat prescriptions below.

Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll feel a little more in control of your prescriptions.

What is a repeat prescription?

Knowing what a repeat prescription is is an important step in keeping on top of your health. 

If your doctor prescribes you with medication that you’ll be taking on a regular basis, this can be done as a repeat prescription. This would mean that the doctor has given permission for you to be given this prescription in the future without first having to make an appointment with your doctor, until a certain date.

How do repeat prescriptions work?

When you have been prescribed medication, you will be told by your doctor if you’ll need to take this regularly, and how often you’ll be taking it. This will also be included on the prescription form you provide the pharmacist.

Your doctor will set up a repeat prescription when they are happy for you to take the medication without regular check-ins. This will generally happen once you’ve taken the medication long enough to assess how you’ve reacted to the medication.

There are varying ways to use your repeat prescriptions, but they all follow the same steps of being written by a doctor, then you order subsequent prescriptions for them to be dispensed by a pharmacist.

How do you order, collect and reorder a prescription?

Without using Healthera, Prescription ordering can be quite complicated and difficult to find out what you should be doing with yours. Every GP will have a repeat prescription process or two that they prefer, but they will advise you of that when issuing you the prescription. This can include an online form to fill out or a number to call when it’s time for you to order your medication.

There are a few methods to order your repeat prescriptions. You can order online, on the phone and in person. The most common method is currently online, due to a significant shift during COVID-19. You can find more information about electronic repeat prescriptions on the NHS website.

How do I get a repeat prescription from my GP/doctor?

GPs are currently working hard to find ways that simplify the process for patients to order prescriptions, due to them taking an incredible amount of time at the moment, as you can see in this study. This means that the methods of doing so will be constantly evolving, so it’s important to communicate with your own doctor’s surgery about what they offer.

This could involve calling them, visiting the surgery, or ordering online.

How long does a repeat prescription take?

It generally takes about two working days for your repeat prescription request to be processed by your GP / doctor’s surgery, after which it will be sent to the pharmacy. It will then be available to be collected from the pharmacy depending on their stock, but ordinarily it will be ready within 2-5 days.

In some circumstances you may want to get your prescription earlier, potentially because you’re going to be away for a while. You would have to let your doctor know, either through an appointment, or by using our app to leave them a note when ordering your prescription. They will decide whether or not they want the medication to be released to you, and if extra medication will need to be provided depending on the reasons you’ve given.

What does a repeat prescription look like?

Prescriptions written for you in person will have a white side and a green side. The green side will be given to the pharmacist, so that they can get your prescription for you. The white side will be for you to keep, as your doctor will have indicated on it that they would like this medication to be available to you on a regular basis without an appointment.

However most prescriptions these days are issued electronically (via EPS), in which case you may not receive a white slip unless you ask for it. Whereby it can be printed by your pharmacist. 

Are repeat prescriptions free? 

This is dependent on what the medication you have been prescribed is as well as a number of factors specific to you, such as your age, income and where you live. Your pharmacist or doctor will be able to help you understand prescription charges, but you can look at a list of requirements for free prescriptions on the NHS, or find out what support you could be eligible for.

What is my pharmacy’s repeat prescription service?

Each pharmacy has their own method of providing their patients with repeat prescriptions, so it’s best to discuss with them directly what services they offer (i.e. delivery or collection only).

Can I take my repeat prescription to any pharmacy?

Yes, it is stated in the NHS terms of service that patients can use any pharmacy, however you can still nominate a pharmacy to dispense your repeat prescriptions for you. However, whether or not they will be able to depends on other factors such as stock, if there is a pharmacist there to do it for you, etc.

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Can I get a repeat prescription from any / a different pharmacy?

You are able to change your nominated pharmacy at any time. But in some cases, you GP may send your prescriptions to a specific pharmacy / dispensary. In this case, you can inform them that you would like to collect your prescription from another pharmacy. Please note that you may need your NHS number.

What do I do if I lose my repeat prescription?

Fortunately most prescriptions are sent electronically these days, but if you were given a physical prescription slip from your GP, you just need to contact them and they should be able to provide you with another, as they had already approved the medication for you. In many cases, the receptionist at your surgery will be able to print one for you.

Your pharmacy would also be able to print off an EPS token that contains details of your repeat medication.

It is important to be aware that if someone was to get a hold of your lost repeat prescription slip, they may be able to use it to order prescriptions for themselves. But this shouldn’t be a problem if you inform your doctor as soon as it has been misplaced.

Can you get a repeat prescription without going to the doctors?

Yes and no. In order to have a repeat prescription, your doctor will need to prescribe and/or approve your medication. What varies is whether or not you need to physically see the doctor or not. In many cases, you will need to see your doctor periodically for check ups. For example, if you are given a repeat prescription for the contraceptive pill, you may be required to see a doctor or nurse after 6 months to have your blood pressure checked. However, aside from this, it is generally unnecessary to see your doctor each time you need your medication dispensed.

In cases of emergencies, pharmacists may be able to issue medication for you without a prescription. But that is under their discretion.

How soon can you order an NHS repeat prescription?

It is recommended that you reorder your repeat prescriptions up to 7 days before it is due to run out to allow them to be processed on time, with many GP surgeries not accepting prescription requests more than 7 days before. However if you do need to have it sooner, you can request for this. Each GP has the ability to decline or approve this request, so it’s important that you specify why you would like your medication early.

Can I order my repeat prescription online?

Thankfully, yes, as referred to earlier. It’s historically been fairly complicated to do considering that not all GPs and pharmacies have the same capabilities, but companies like Healthera are trying their best to make this process as streamlined as possible.

Right now, there are a few ways to do this that you can choose from, depending on your GP surgery, pharmacy and where you live.

Some GPs have their own online system where you can order repeat prescriptions – you’ll need to check with them. 

Through Healthera, you can order your prescription using the app. Thankfully due to a recent integration, the repeat prescription requests go straight from the patient to the GP clinical system, seamlessly aligning it with NHS repeat prescription ordering processes.

Can I order a repeat prescription over the phone?

If you would like to order your prescription over the phone, this will depend entirely on the services offered by your GP or local pharmacies. If you need any help using the Healthera App to order your repeat prescriptions, click the “Profile” tab, and then “Customer Support” to speak to a member of our team.

Can I collect my repeat prescription from any pharmacy?

Unfortunately, while we have over 1000 pharmacies to choose from, we don’t currently cover every pharmacy in the UK. When you register with the Healthera App, you will be provided with a nominated pharmacy, but you can choose from a range of Healthera pharmacies. If there isn’t a pharmacy close enough to you to collect from, there are a range of pharmacies that deliver nationally that you can use.

How long will a pharmacy hold your prescription?

The length of time a pharmacy will hold your prescription varies between each pharmacy. However, they will typically keep your prescription for 10 to 14 days. We would recommend contacting the pharmacy directly to be sure, either using the messaging feature on the Healthera App, or calling them.


Healthera operates a leading healthcare marketplace that provides patients with medicines, healthcare services and products through the largest digital platform of pharmacies and GPs in the UK, including national chains and independent providers. Download Healthera App to order NHS repeat prescription online!

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