Advice for patients

Private prescriptions: Q&A

In this post I will be looking some common questions surrounding private prescriptions.

Private prescription is term used to describe a medication prescription which is not covered under National Health System (NHS).

Can I get private prescription on NHS?

No. Cost of private prescriptions is not covered by NHS. This means patients need to pay for the cost of medication supply on private prescription plus any additional mark-up.

How can I get private prescription?

There are number of ways of getting private prescriptions.

Your GP can issue a private prescription (for a fee), however in primary care settings, GP may not issue private prescription as alternative to NHS FP10 prescription. In practice this means that only limited items are prescribed by GPs on private prescription (BMA, 2018). These commonly include malaria prevention medication and erectile dysfunction medication.

Other options of getting private prescriptions:

  • private consultation with prescriber
  • use of online services to consult a doctor who then issues prescription
  • use of online pharmacy. Some medicines such as sildenafil (Viagra) are widely available directly from most major pharmacies. These normally require patients to submit health questionnaire which is screen by a doctor who then issues private prescription.

Who can issues/prescribe on private prescription?

Any prescriber approved by Human Medicines Regulation 2012 can issue a private prescription. This includes:

  • a doctor;
  • a dentist;
  • a supplementary prescriber;
  • a nurse independent prescriber; and
  • a pharmacist independent prescriber.

How long does private prescription is valid for?

Private prescription expires 6 months from the issue date.

How long is repeatable private prescription valid for?

For repeatable private prescription, first dispensing needs to be done within 6 months of the issue date, following which there is no legal time limit for dispensing.

What can be prescribed on private prescriptions?

Almost any drug can be prescribed on private prescription. However, specific classes of controlled drugs have special prescription requirements. For example, Controlled drugs Schedule 2 (for example methylphenidate class) and 3 (for example tramadol) require special prescription form (FP10PCD) and can only be issued by some prescribers.

For other drugs a private prescription can be written on any piece of paper. In order to be valid a private prescription needs to meet specific legal requirements.

Where can I fulfill my private prescription?

All high street pharmacies can fulfill private prescriptions. Some online dispensing pharmacies can also process private prescriptions. This normally means you need to post your private prescription before its processed.

How much do I have to pay for fulfilling my private prescription?

Price for supply of medication on private prescription is driven by the cost of drug supplied and markup. Most pharmacies have minimum charge for processing private prescriptions. For example Lloyds Pharmacy charges minimum £5 for fulfilling private prescription, Tesco Pharmacy just £2.

Can I get estimate price for fulfilling private prescription?

AHH Pharmaceuticals, one of the main wholesaler of drugs in UK provides price information on generic medication, which is updated on monthly basis. Generic price list is located on AHH website.

All prices are subject to alterations without notice.

You can estimate cost of private prescription by looking at trade price and multiply for example by 20% mark-up price. Keep in mind some pharmacies will charge a minimum fee.

I was issued a private prescription via online service (with/without consultation with doctor) do I have to pay for medication supply if I take my prescription to a high street pharmacy?

Yes. It is possible for patients to use online services for a private consultation with a doctor. In some cases, patients are charged admin fee for private prescription. This however does not cover the cost of drug supply in high street pharmacy.

I am normally age exempt when I collect my NHS prescriptions. Do I still need to pay for my private prescription?

Yes. Cost of private prescriptions is not covered by any NHS exemption including age exemption, regardless of patient’s age.

Can I use my prepayment card as exemption for private prescription?

No. As above, cost of private prescriptions is not covered by any exemption including NHS prepayment certificate.

References:

BMA (2018). Prescribing in general practice. Available at: https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/gp-practices/service-provision/prescribing/prescribing-in-general-practice Accessed on 13/03/2019

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

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