Guide to NHS Repeat Prescriptions

Updated 17th Jul 2020

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.

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.


1. 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.


2. How do repeat prescriptions work? How to use repeat prescriptions?

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.

You can request for this to be a repeat prescription, but usually your doctor will let you know 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.

The prescription they write for you 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.

To summarise, while there are several ways to use your repeat prescriptions, they will all follow the same steps of being written by a doctor, you ordering subsequent prescriptions for them to be dispensed by a pharmacist. I’ll go into more detail next about how you can do that.


3. How to order, collect and reorder a prescription?

Prescription ordering can be quite complicated and difficult to find out what you should be doing with yours. Every healthcare provider will have a service or two that they prefer, but they will advise you of that when giving 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 prescriptions. You can order online, on the phone and in person. The most common methods are in person and online. You can find more information about electronic repeat prescriptions on the NHS website here.


4. How do I get a repeat prescription from my doctor?

You could of course book an appointment to see your doctor, and request a repeat prescription there. Or you could do it online, through apps such as Healthera.

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.


5. 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 this may be between a number of minutes and a few hours.

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.


6. Can I order my repeat prescription online? Can it align with the NHS repeat prescription ordering process?

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.


Shane, a Healthera repeat prescription user, shared his experience getting his prescriptions online:


For me, despite having once worked within pharmacy (in cosmetic sales) and despite knowing lots of friends and family who are on repeat medicines, I wasn’t aware of the options available. So what is the best way to get your NHS repeat prescription?

I have been lucky growing up that I made it to the ripe old age of 26 without needing to be on any medication for more than a couple of months. Recently however that changed. And after a much-needed visit to my GP, I found myself walking out of the double doors, clutching a green slip in my hand and coming to a surprising realisation - This is going to take up a lot of my time! Aside from the worries I had about the effects of my condition on my work or hobbies I also had to:

  • Remember to take my medicine at the correct times.
  • Get check-ups to monitor my blood pressure.
  • Remember when to re order.
  • And repeatedly go through the unfamiliar process of getting my next batch of medicines again.


Month one - Visits to the GP:

Like most of my friends I have a pretty intensive job, a job in an office out of town that keeps me busy during long days. When I realised it was almost the end of the month, I’m embarrassed to say that I still hadn’t reordered my medicine. I had three days worth left. Hoping I still had enough time, I called my GP’s Surgery to tell them about my problem. I think it’s unlikely anyone reading this article will be unfamiliar with the frustration of being stuck on hold at their local medical practise, so I won’t dwell on it. I was relieved when I finally got through - mere minutes before they were due to close for the day. The lady I spoke to was really helpful and thankfully managed to process my request. I was told my GP would review it, and should be ready to collect in two or three days. I called again on the second day. I'm glad I did because I found they had been busy and it wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow.

Finding time to collect my repeat prescription slip wasn’t easy. I was a bit desperate at this point, so I left work early and headed straight for the surgery, before taking it to the pharmacy and waiting for them to make it up. The pharmacy I visited was busy. It took a little while for them to get my repeat prescription ready. They did it then and there. I was soon set for another month of mobile phone alarms, and sporadic worrying about my health.


So I missed a day of my medication. I took time out of work to travel down to collect my prescription. Spent a fair bit of time making phone calls - maybe I did get a little stressed.


I’ll put my hands up. I didn’t do my research. I got caught up with work and despite my good intentions didn’t make my health a priority. Next month I’ll do this better.


Month two - Online ordering:

This time around I did give my medicine order a bit of thought. As well as remembering to reorder earlier I also tried a different approach. A colleague had suggested trying an online pharmacy. They ostensibly offered a ‘quick and easy’ method of ordering a repeat prescription online. I took his advice and discovered a few things. Firstly, I have to say the ‘quick and easy’ part may be subject to opinion.

In all, I was a bit confused by the process. I won’t mention which business I used but I did research on my own and found that a few companies offer a similar service. When I did eventually manage to figure it out (no thanks to the confusing explanation on the website) I arranged to have my medicine delivered. What I was shocked to see was that it was going to take a week, as the medicine had to be sent off for. Meaning I would risk missing a few doses again.

The package arrived nine days later and thankfully my house-mate was around to sign for it. But I did miss taking my pills again, for three whole days. When I got back and opened the package, I found that one of my medicines looked very different from the ones I’d been given before. Being a pragmatic kind of guy, I checked and double checked the medicine name and dosage to be certain there hadn’t been a mistake, and went ahead anyway. But it would have been nice to have a healthcare professional to contact to be sure. As it is, I don’t even have any clue which pharmacy this came from. This got me thinking. If there was a problem with this service, missing medicine, faulty packaging, delayed delivery. What do I do?


I can’t believe how long this took. What turned out to be a fairly complex and non-intuitive process left me with a late delivery and an unfamiliar looking medicine. In retrospect, that isn’t a problem but I guess it would be nice to have the option to ask someone about this.


I guess I could use this service again, if I ordered much earlier. But in all the service was impersonal, and I didn’t receive or have access to advice or information which would have been useful.


Month three - A better solution:

I was beginning to feel the frustration this month. 12 weeks into my treatment and I was yet to get this medicine ordering thing right. My schedule was as busy as ever. Despite having reminded myself to order my medicine in due time I found myself dreading the ordeal of having to sort out my NHS repeat prescription again. Upon arriving home one evening (long before my pills ran out,) my housemate told me he’d just been into the local pharmacy, to pick up something for his cold. While he was there, the counter assistant told him about an app called Healthera.

Healthera helps patients manage medicines. And she said by using the app through the pharmacy he could order his medicines each month. Feeling at least a little apprehensive, I thought I’d give it a go. I downloaded the app, and found I had the option to set reminders for my medicines. By scanning the barcode on the box the app can take in most of the medicines information, and I can set reminders for when to reorder. By entering some details and clicking a few buttons. The app ordered my medicine through the local pharmacy. After entering my medicine, I got a notification from my pharmacist. Through the Healthera app, my pharmacist informed me that my repeat prescription was processing. I got a message from the pharmacist later, offering her help with any advice I might need. In just two days, I got a notification on the app, telling me my NHS repeat prescription was ready to collect. As simple as that.


This was the fastest and nicest method I tried. My prescription was for collection in two days and it was really nice to get a personal message from the pharmacy.


I don’t see why I’d need another method than this. My app reminds me when to order my medicines, when to take them, and gives me fast direct access to a healthcare professional through messaging, which I think is awesome (because I hate phone calls.)

To conclude, I have to say Healthera’s app is the best method I’ve found to get my NHS repeat prescription. It links me to my local pharmacy, gives me the reminder I need, gives me access to advice, support and clinical services.



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!