Your complete guide to repeat prescriptions

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When you’re first prescribed a medication, you’ll likely be told a number of things, including how long you need to take it for. But what you often aren’t told is how to keep taking that medication when your current supply runs out. For that, you need a repeat prescription, and you need to know how to order one.

Worry not, because Evergreen Life is here to help. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about repeat prescriptions, to help put you back in control of your healthcare.

What's a repeat prescription?

If you and your doctor or nurse discuss the need to take a medication (or multiple) on a regular basis, this can be issued to you through a repeat prescription. As prescribed medications need a doctor’s approval, a repeat prescription shows that you can get this medication from the pharmacy without the need for a doctor’s appointment beforehand.

How do repeat prescriptions work?

When you’re prescribed medication by a doctor, you’ll have a conversation about how to take it, how often to take it, and if it’ll need to be taken long term. Your prescription will then usually be sent to your pharmacy electronically. If this isn’t the case, you can take the prescription to a pharmacy and have the pharmacist fill it out.

If your doctor is happy for you to take that medication on a regular basis, they’ll set up a repeat prescription. This is usually done after you’ve been monitored for potential side effects and reactions; you may have check-ins with your doctor up to this point.

Often, you’ll have to request the medication yourself - either by ringing up the doctor’s or using an app - and then visit your nominated pharmacy to collect your medication a few days later. However, it’s also possible for your surgery to set it up so that you don’t have to ask for your medication. Instead, they're dispensed automatically for a period of say six months. This is called repeat dispensing. Then your pharmacy will likely carry out a Medication Use Review or your doctor will ask that you come in for a review appointment (you can find more information on these below).

How do I order, collect and reorder a prescription?

The method of ordering a repeat prescription may vary between GP practices depending on the system they use. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, most GP surgeries allow for online requests to be processed, although it may be possible to order in person or, on rare occasions, over the phone.

When you have the Evergreen Life app and an account linked to your GP, if your medication is marked as a repeat prescription, it’ll automatically be highlighted as such within your account. Then you can simply request your next prescription from the app; this’ll be sent to your doctor immediately, and with our electronic repeat prescription delivery service, you can have your medication brought straight to your door.

How do I get a repeat prescription?

It can take around two working days for your repeat prescription request to be processed by the surgery, as your doctor has to approved every prescription unless they’ve authorised you to take the prescribed medication for six months. Next, the repeat prescription is sent to the pharmacy for dispensing. This can take anywhere between two and five days, depending on their stock of medication. With this in mind, be sure to stay on top of which medicines you need by ordering before you run out. Many online pharmacies may remind you when it’s time to reorder to help you keep track of your repeat prescriptions.

What does a repeat prescription look like?

When you’re first prescribed medication following an appointment with your doctor, your repeat prescription can come in two forms, electronically or in paper form. Most commonly it’s issued electronically via EPS (electronic prescription service), and you won’t receive a paper copy - unless you specifically request one. Your doctor will normally send your repeat prescription information to the pharmacy you’ve chosen and your simply go to your nominated pharmacy two days later and it should be ready for you. Your chosen pharmacy may be conveniently near where you live or work, for example and you can ask your GP to change your chosen pharmacy at any time.

In the unusual event that your repeat prescription is issued in paper form, your doctor will give you a green and white slip of paper. The green slip of paper is the prescription itself and will say what your medication is, the dosage and the amount prescribed. You can take the green slip to any pharmacy for them to dispense the prescription to you. As well as your medication, the pharmacy will return the white slip of paper for you to keep because it contains details of all your repeat medications. The doctor may also leave a message asking you to make an appointment to review your medication. The white slip of paper ensures that you can order the next repeat prescription in a month or two without having to ask your GP for an appointment.

Are repeat prescriptions free?

Whether or not you pay for your prescriptions depends on the medication you’re taking, and factors that are specific to you such as your age, where you live and income. For example, contraceptives such as birth control pills and the fitting of certain contraceptives are currently free on the NHS regardless of age.

Most adults will have to pay for their prescriptions; as of January 2022, the current prescription charge is £9.35. If you get multiple prescriptions on a regular basis, it may be cheaper to pay for a PPC (prescription prepayment certificate) which could help you save money in the long run.

Whilst everyone under 16 is entitled to a free prescription - and 18 if you’re in full-time education - there are a number of requirements for adults to be eligible for a free prescription. You can check out the full criteria here.

Can I take my repeat prescription to any pharmacy?

You'll usually have a nominated pharmacy where your repeat prescription will be sent electronically each time you request it. Sometimes your GP may send it to a specific one - if they have one on-site, for example. However, you can inform your GP surgery if you'd like to collect your prescription from another pharmacy - you may need your NHS number to do so.

What do I do if I lose my repeat prescription?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, most repeat prescriptions are sent electronically, so there’s nothing to lose. If you're given a physical slip from your GP and you lose this, simply contact the surgery and they should be able to print another out as your medication has already been approved.

Be sure to let your GP surgery know as soon as you lose your slip, as it could be used by someone else to order medication for themselves.

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

Yes! The main point of repeat prescription is being able to refill the medication regularly without the need for scheduling appointments with a GP.

However, to have the medication initially approved, you’ll need to see or speak to a doctor for them to prescribe it first. It’s also worth remembering that almost all prescriptions need a medical review. For example, you may need to see your doctor every few months for a blood pressure check if you're prescribed an oral contraceptive pill. How often your doctor asks for these reviews with you will depend on the type of medication you’re taking but you can expect these appointments to be quite thorough. The reviews will look for side-effects, how the medication interacts with other medicines you may be taking, and if you fully understand what your prescription is for. Your doctor will also take the opportunity to check whether the relevant blood tests have been done to make sure that everything is going well with regards to your medication. Sometimes your pharmacist may carry out Medication Use Reviews, which helpfully explore all the things outlined above and see whether you should stop taking certain medication.

How long will a pharmacy hold your prescription?

The length of time a pharmacy will hold onto your prescription after they have received it electronically will vary. But they’ll typically keep it for 10 to 14 days. Try to collect your medication soon after it’s requested to avoid either running out of medication or them simply tossing your prescription.

Make repeat prescriptions a doddle with the Evergreen Life app

Did you know that ordering repeat prescriptions via Evergreen Life is completely free? You can also use the app to take advantage of the handy medication reminder feature and benefit from the app checking if you’re taking the right medication and whether you’re actually taking them in the way your doctor intended on your prescription. Simply download the app to get started.

Written by
Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA

Meet Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA, Clinical Director at Evergreen Life, and a Medical Expert with more than 42 years' experience as a GP.

Article updated:
March 9, 2022
Reviewed by:
Dr James Harmsworth King MBBS MPhil PhD
Biotechnology & Medical Expert
Anna Keeble BA MA
Wellbeing Expert