How do repeat prescriptions work in the UK?

Everything you need to know about electronic repeat prescriptions.

Prescription is required to purchase medicines.

Whenever you are ill, you go to the General Physician (commonly known as GP), who might give you a prescription after evaluating your condition. The prescription will have all details about the dosage and will also tell you for how long you need to take the medicines. Some situations, e.g., cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases etc., may even require you to use the drugs for a long time.

If your doctor asks you to take the medicines regularly, they will issue you a repeat prescription. This means that you can pick up the prescribed medication from the nominated pharmacy without consulting with the general physician, for as long as the doctor has stated in the prescription.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the use of prescriptions, e.g., how they work, how you can get repeat prescriptions, what doctor you should go to and more. This article will help you understand medical prescriptions in more depth.

How does a repeat prescription work?

Whenever you have been prescribed a medication, you should discuss with the doctor how long you need to take it for. The prescription is sent electronically to the pharmacy or you will take it to the pharmacy.

If the doctor thinks that you need to use the drugs for a long time and is satisfied with your awareness about the side effects of the drugs and drug safety, they will issue an electronic repeat prescription. The prescription is sent automatically to the pharmacy, and you can collect the medications by visiting the pharmacy or through the online mobile phone applications (if you are using online pharmacies).

The repeat prescriptions allow you to get the medicines directly from the online pharmacy.

You shall continue to use the medicines for as long as mentioned on the prescription or until the doctor asks you to visit the clinic for a new review. The doctor can also issue several repeat prescriptions based on your clinical situation and circumstances. Your pharmacy will continue to supply these prescribed medications after regular intervals.

Who is eligible for electronic repeat prescriptions?

The doctor should decide your eligibility for the repeat prescription and the electronic repeat dispensing. The eligibility criteria include (but are not limited to);

  • Patients receiving a stable therapy

  • Patients suffering from long-term conditions

  • Patients receive multiple long-term treatments, e.g., asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.

  • Patients that have seasonal conditions and who are trained enough to manage these conditions by themselves.

Although these conditions suggest the suitability for electronic repeat prescriptions, the clinician has to be the one to recommend using repeat prescriptions after thoroughly assessing your situation.

Read more: At what age can you buy paracetamol in the UK?

How can you get electronic repeat prescriptions?

The method of lodging a repeat prescription request depends on the health system you are prescribed to. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most general physicians allowed the online processing of prescriptions, although it was also possible to order the drugs over the phone.

For example, if you are using the online services of NHS, and the account is linked to your physician, a medicine or drug marked as a repeat prescription will be automatically highlighted on your account. You can request the next prescription through online portals. This request will be sent to your GP. After the approval, the required medicines will be brought to you through the prescription collection service at your doorstep.

The Welzo online pharmacy also provides the service to deliver repeat prescriptions to your doorstep. You can order the NHS repeat prescriptions from the comfort of your home. Click here to order your medicine.

How long a repeat prescription processing takes?

It all depends on the health service you are prescribed. Usually, it takes 2-3 working days for a repeat prescription request to be processed electronically. It has to be approved by the doctor unless the doctor has already authorized you to use the prescribed medication for months (for example 6 months). After approval by the doctor, the request is forwarded to the pharmacy.

The electronic repeat prescription system ensures you don't need to visit the pharmacy repeatedly.

The pharmacy collects the prescriptions and may take a few days to source the product, depending on the availability of the medicines. So, you should forward a request 1 week before your stock of drugs runs out. However, some online pharmacies offer reminder services. These pharmacies keep a record of your prescriptions and remind you when to reorder.

What is the appearance of a repeat prescription?

The prescriptions are issued in two forms, written on paper or electronically. Very often, an electronic prescription is printed using the electronic prescription system. This electronic prescription will be forwarded directly to your pharmacy.

You will visit the nominated pharmacy and collect the prescribed medications. Patients are usually directed to the nearest pharmacy to their home or office, but you can also request the GP to assign you a specific pharmacy.

However, in the case of a written prescription, it is issued in the form of a green and white slip. The green part of the slip is the actual prescription and has the details related to the prescribed medicines and the amounts and dosages prescribed. The pharmacy will take the green label, issue you the prescribed medications, and return the white slip. But why?

This white slip contains the details related to the repeat medications. It can also have information about the time for the next appointment. It would help if you kept this white slip safe as it will ensure that you can get the repeat medicines within the period mentioned on it without the need to visit the physician.

Can you get a repeat prescription without visiting the doctor?

Yes, you can, and in fact, the main idea of a repeat prescription is to avoid unnecessary trips and appointments with the GP, like in the case of a paper prescription. However, you will still need to speak to or visit the doctor for the initial prescription. Also, remember that all types of prescriptions, whether electronic or paper ones, need reviews regularly.

For example, suppose you are prescribed oral contraceptives. In this case, you may need to visit the GP regularly after a few months for a thorough physical examination, e.g., monitoring your blood pressure. The exact time interval between the appointments depends on your medical history, present condition, and the nature of the prescribed medicines. Generally, these appointments have regular intervals.

At each appointment, the doctor will assess your understanding of the prescription and check for any dangerous drug interactions or side effects. The doctor may ask you to undergo blood tests and bring the reports to see how the treatment plan goes. A thorough review of the situation will allow the doctor to decide if you need to change or stop using certain drugs.

Read more: What medical conditions qualify for free prescriptions?

Can you get repeat prescriptions for free?

Whether the repeat prescription is free of cost or you have to pay a fee depends on several factors, e.g., your income, age, the area you live in and the nature of the medicines being used. For example, the prescriptions for contraceptive pills are issued free of cost regardless of your age.

Digital health services are a real blessing for most patients.

For most other drugs, adult patients have to pay a fee depending on the health service they use. The current price for repeat prescriptions issued by NHS is £9.35 per prescription. A recent offer by the NHS allows users to save money by using the prescription prepayment certificate (PRC). This certificate costs £30.25 for three months and is helpful if you need more than 3 repeat prescriptions in that period.

However, you can receive a free prescription if you are under 16. Students (on a full-time education) are entitled to get the free prescription up to 18 years of age. Adults can also get free prescriptions if they are fulfilling specific criteria. The criteria are mentioned on the NHS website. Click here to read about it.

What should you do in case of a lost repeat prescription?

Another benefit of using repeat prescriptions is that they can not be lost. As these prescriptions are processed electronically, there is no way to lose them. If you were given a physical slip and lost it, there is still nothing to worry about. Just contact the surgeon. They will be able to give you a new one as the medication is already approved.

However, it is essential to inform your GP or surgery in case you lose your physical prescription as the slip can be used by someone else to order the medication with the risk of illegal use.

How often is a medical review required?

One of the requirements for using repeat prescriptions is to have a regular medical review at least once a year, preferably in your birth month. It means you will need a regular follow-up from the prescribing surgery, and the prescription team will advise you on the topic. The medical review can involve a blood test, a blood pressure check or a thorough appointment with the doctor.

Regular review by medical professionals will help you keep a track record of your health.

Other options for regular review are a telephone consultation or a clinical examination by a practising nurse. If you have access to and can use the home-based blood pressure monitors, you may be required to record the blood pressure reading over several days and weeks and hand over the form to the concerned people at the surgery.

If you are in danger of running out of the medicine stock before the planned medical review, contact the prescription team and request them to issue more medicines until the review appointment. Some medications may require a more frequent inspection, and the prescription team will advise you.

What if you fail to attend the annual review?

You must attend the annual medication review. What will happen if you fail to do so? The doctor or the concerned health authorities can withdraw your prescription. 

More NHS services

Subscribing to the NHS electronic prescriptions will also allow you to access the other services offered by the NHS, e.g., free treatment without an appointment with the local pharmacist for various common ailments and illnesses, e.g., diarrhoea, bites, stings, eye infections, indigestion etc., and health advice.

You can also get various medications without consulting the doctor. Consult your local pharmacist for more help and advice.

The Welzo Health Hub is a great source of informative articles, health advice and everything related to a healthy and balanced life. Various topics are covered, from liver functions and cholesterol levels to women's health. Click here to explore.


Electronic repeat prescriptions are part of a comprehensive health program offered by the national health service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. These prescriptions are introduced to facilitate patients who are on a long-term therapy to tackle the issues associated with paper prescriptions.

You can order a repeat prescription online through NHS and other health services. The healthcare agency will record this prescription and guide you through annual (or as frequently as required) reviews.

The electronic repeat prescriptions allow the healthcare agency to keep an electronic record of your health.

Although we covered a lot of details about electronic repeat prescriptions are mentioned in the article, if you want to find our more you should consult with health professional. The Welzo Team is always here for you. Click here for help related to your general health.

Our online pharmacy has a large host of products that you can order from the comfort of your home. Click here to find what you need.

Share article
1 of 4
1 of 4
Get 10% off your first order

Plus get the inside scoop on our latest content and updates in our monthly newsletter.