NHS prescriptions delivered: guide for patients
Advice for patients

How to get NHS prescriptions delivered?

Choosing NHS prescriptions delivered in the current climate is something patients should consider, however as you will learn from the post, some distance-selling pharmacies, which deliver NHS prescriptions via Royal Mail, struggle with the demand due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Delivery of NHS prescriptions will not only support the social distancing measures to reduce the interaction with other people and vulnerable patients, but also reduce the workload of pharmacy teams, as many NHS prescriptions are dispensed ‘centrally’ and delivered directly to patient’s homes. In this post, I will discuss how the biggest pharmacies deliver NHS prescriptions in the UK. I will also talk about two main options for delivery of prescribed medicines:

  • Deliveries from a local pharmacies’ door to door’ (independent and large multiple pharmacies)
  • Deliveries by distance-selling (internet) pharmacies by post

A separate post will be created on the delivery of NHS prescriptions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Electronic prescription service and NHS prescriptions

Most GP surgeries in the UK use Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) to transfer a patient’s prescription electronically from GP surgeries to a nominated pharmacy (pharmacy of your choice). The transfer of prescription is almost instantaneous. EPS service allows to send NHS prescription to any pharmacy, for example, to a distance-selling pharmacy (internet pharmacy).

Why should I get my NHS prescriptions delivered?

The main advantages of having NHS prescriptions delivered include:

  • Convenient service with medications being delivered to your door
  • Prescriptions delivery services are usually managed with the use of smartphone apps or via the pharmacy website, with different features such as email and smartphone app notifications to re-order the medication or for checking the status of the order.
  • All online pharmacies offer a free delivery service
  • Support of social distancing measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) during the pandemic.

Disadvantages of having NHS prescriptions delivered

  • Delivery may be delayed during unpredicted demand. For example, Echo service by Lloyds Pharmacy temporarily stopped registration during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; similarly, pharmacy2u (the biggest pharmacy in the UK) advised on delays on deliveries of medicines (5 extra days) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • There is a small chance your medication is lost during the delivery
  • Not the best option for acute prescriptions, for example for drugs needed urgently such as antibiotics
  • For controlled drugs, a signature is required upon delivery; therefore, a patient needs to be present at home. Some pharmacies do not allow to order controlled drugs; this has to be done over the phone.
  • For larger deliveries which do not fit through a standard letterbox, patients need to be present to receive a delivery.
  • All distance selling pharmacies use Royal Mail to deliver patient’s medication. The delivery may be disturbed during Royal Mail strikes.
  • The business moved away from local (independent) pharmacies
  • Some GP surgeries in the UK do not allow pharmacies to order a repeatable NHS prescription on the patient’s behalf. In this case, patients may receive reminders from pharmacies to order their medication; however, this has to be done by patients themselves.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that broadly, you can have NHS prescriptions delivered by a local pharmacies (including larger multiple pharmacies like Boots and Lloyds) ‘door to door‘ and/or by a distance-selling pharmacies, such as internet pharmacies by post. Delivery of prescriptions by post is offered by all major pharmacy chains in the UK.

NHS prescriptions delivered by your local pharmacy ‘door to door.’

Delivery of NHS prescriptions may be free of charge, or it may be offered as paid service. Pharmacies can charge patients for the delivery of their medication as delivery service is not part of the NHS contract between the NHS and pharmacies.

1. Independent pharmacies

Most independent pharmacies offer delivery service. Many provide free delivery service of NHS prescriptions; some may have specific criteria for delivery; for example, only housebound patients are offered this service. The best way to find out if a local, independent pharmacy provides a delivery service, is to get in touch with the pharmacy and inquire about the delivery service. Independent pharmacies may charge for the delivery of the medications.

2. NHS prescriptions delivered by Boots Pharmacy

Boots Pharmacy offers a paid delivery service. Medication is delivered directly from your local Boots Pharmacy.

How much does the Boots Pharmacy delivery service cost?

  • One-off delivery cost £5
  • The annual subscription to the delivery service cost £55

Patients need to contact their local Boots to arrange home delivery service.

3. NHS prescriptions delivered by Lloyds Pharmacy

Although not advertised, Lloyds Pharmacy offers a paid delivery service from their local branches. Patients must pay for subscription service to get their NHS prescriptions delivered.

How much does Lloyds Pharmacy delivery service cost?

  • Six months of delivery service: £35
  • Twelve months of delivery service: £60

4. NHS prescriptions delivered by Well Pharmacy

Well pharmacy offers a home delivery service; however, free delivery service is limited to patients who require the delivery under the Equality Act 2010; for example, patients with disabilities.

NHS prescriptions delivered by post

1. Pharmacy2u

Pharmacy2u is the biggest pharmacy in the UK, which operates as a distance-selling pharmacy. Patients manage the ordering of their medication, trough the website, or Pharmacy2u smartphone app. Delivery of all NHS prescriptions is free to any UK address.

Other features of service:

  • Reminders to re-order medication from GP
  • Medicines can be delivered to a home, work address, or your neighbor. Drugs can also be delivered to ‘a safe place’ at home if patients are out of the house.
  • Signature is needed for the delivery of controlled drugs
  • Items which need to be refrigerated (such as insulins) are delivered in special packaging to ensure controlled temperature between 2°C and 8°C.#
  • Royal Mail delivers medicines.

Patients who wish to use Pharmacy2u need to register with the use of a website or app or request a paper registration form from the website or over the phone.

Once registration is complete, Pharmacy2u becomes a nominated pharmacy to receive a patient’s NHS prescriptions with the use of Electronic Prescription Service (EPS).

2. Boots Pharmacy

Boots Pharmacy offers the management and delivery of NHS prescriptions with the use of Boots Online Repeat Prescription website or Boots app. Patients have the option of connecting their Boots account with GP Online Services, a free service provided by GP surgeries to access the list of patients repeatable medicines.

Patients who do not use GP Online Services can do so by going to the surgery (with ID) and completing a registration form. Patients are given login details after the registration, which is then added toy your Boots account. This speeds up re-ordering of patient’s medications.

It is possible to use Boots Online Repeat Prescription service to order medicines without the use of GP Online Services; however, the collection and delivery service takes longer without the use of GP Online Services.

A patient who manages their NHS prescriptions with Boots Online Repeat Prescription has the option of free delivery by Royal Mail or collection from a local Boots Pharmacy.

Boots Online Repeat service does not allow for the delivery of controlled drugs or medicines which need to be stored in the fridge. Patients can still use this service; however, if medication is a controlled drug or a fridge item, a patient needs to collect their medication from a local Boots.

3. Lloyds Pharmacy (Echo)

Lloyds Pharmacy offers delivery of NHS prescriptions with the use of Echo website and Echo app. After the registration is completed, patients can order their repeatable medications. Drugs are delivered free of charge via Royal Mail. Medication can be delivered to any UK address, or they may choose delivery to over 10500 collection points.

Fridge items and controlled drugs can be delivered; however, controlled drugs cannot be ordered through the website or app.

Some handy features of the Echo app :

  • Notification features, for example when GP approves a request for repeatable medication and when ordered medicines are on their way
  • Progress of the prescription order
  • Reminders when to take your medicines or when to re-order

4. Well Pharmacy

Well pharmacy offers the management and free delivery of NHS prescriptions with the use of their website and smartphone app. As with all other services discussed, patients need to register and search for medication they wish to order. Repeated medicines are delivered via Royal Mail.

There is no information on the delivery options for fridge items and controlled drugs on Well Pharmacy website.

5. Superdrug Pharmacy

Superdrug offers the same service as all the above pharmacies. Patients can use Superdrug Online NHS Prescriptions service to order their repeatable medications. Medications are delivered free of charge via Royal Mail to UK address or can be picked up from Superdrug branches.

There is no information on the delivery options for fridge items and controlled drugs.

Conclusion

There are plenty of options for UK patients to have their NHS prescriptions delivered. The current trend for delivery of NHS prescriptions moves towards the delivery by post (Royal Mail) with all major pharmacies offering this service. Although free delivery of medicines by post can be convenient, it may not suit all patients.

Patients can manage the ordering of medication with the use of online GP services, a free service offered by most doctor surgeries in the UK, and collect their medicines from a local pharmacy without going to a GP surgery.

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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