About Nhs Prescriptions

Learn about your NHS prescriptions and how to get them through Peak Pharmacy - a prescription medicine bag

Learn About NHS and Private Prescriptions

What is a prescription?

A prescription is a written order from a qualified medical prescriber to supply a medicine under their authority. Historically, only doctors could prescribe but now a wide array of healthcare practitioners have earned the right to issue prescriptions, these include pharmacists, dentists, nurses, podiatrists and paramedics.

What types of prescriptions can you get?

Good question, well I’m sure most of you are familiar with NHS prescriptions. You can get NHS prescriptions from your GP, Dentist, drug Addiction Clinic and sometimes even the hospital.

NHS prescriptions can be one-off prescriptions for acute conditions, for example, an infection or for chronic conditions where you take the prescribed medication over a long period of time. A good example would be blood pressure treatments.

There is another type of prescription, one that you are probably less familiar with, and that is a private prescription. In essence, both prescriptions are the same, a written authorisation to supply a specified medicine. The difference between the two relates to how the medicine is paid for. Carry on reading to find out more.

Electronic Repeat Dispensing

Not to be confused with your repeat medication list at your GP, this service is entirely different and is not used universally across England.  Electronic Repeat dispensing can be provided by all Peak Pharmacy branches.

Patients who receive regular medicines may be offered electronic repeat dispensing by their GP.  Your GP will issue you with a batch of prescriptions covering 3,6,9 or 12 months according to your situation and it will allow you to visit the pharmacy for your medicines without having to order through the GP surgery first.  

On each occasion you will be asked by the pharmacy which medicines you require, and if there are medicines you don't require.  They will be issued (apart from exceptional circumstances) around the time you are due for your medicines to prevent medicine waste.  

Each prescription will be numbered, for example, 4 of 6. When you get to your last prescription of the batch for example 6 of 6 you will need to see your doctor again to obtain your next batch of prescriptions.  

NHS Prescriptions

How do they get to the pharmacy?

Using the NHS Electronic Prescription Service your GP can send prescriptions to your chosen pharmacy electronically. The pharmacy that processes your NHS prescriptions regularly is known as your “nominated pharmacy”. Just as prescriptions are now sent electronically to the pharmacy, many GPs now allow you to order your medicines electronically. The new Peak Pharmacy App will send orders to your GP and help you manage your medicines.

Do I have to pay for my NHS prescriptions?

NHS Prescription fees are set each April and usually increase year on year. The fee is payable on every prescription item and does not reflect the cost of the medicine being prescribed. For further information and the current price read this article on NHS Prescription Charges. All NHS prescription items attract this fee unless you are exempt from paying. Exemption groups include those who are:

  • If you are 16, 17 or 18 and in Full-Time Education
  • Over 60 years of age, or under 16 years old
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months and have been issued with an NHS maternity exemption card (available from your midwife/GP)
  • receiving tax credits and pension guarantee credit
  • Issued a prescription exemption certificate by the Ministry of Defence
  • Medically exempt. This includes conditions like epilepsy, cancer and hypothyroidism
  • Named on a prescription prepayment certificate or HRT prepayment certificate
  • In receipt of Income support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Receiving Universal Credit and meeting the criteria. Visit www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/UC to find out more
  • Named on an NHS HC2 Certificate for help with health costs 
If you are still unsure if you qualify for free NHS prescriptions you can check your eligibility on the NHS website or by phone on their helpline 0300 330 1349

 In most circumstances, you will need to get an exemption certificate as evidence that you don’t need to pay for your prescriptions. For maternity or medical exemptions, you can get a form from your doctor, midwife or health visitor.

If you are entitled to free prescriptions because you’re unemployed or on a low income, you should check if you need an exemption certificate.

Exemption certificates are valid for a limited period. You can check if your exemption certificate is still valid on the NHS website.


Contraceptives are almost always free on the NHS, no matter how old you are, so long as they are being used for contraceptive purposes.

Multiple charge items

Generally, you only have to pay one charge for each item on your prescription, but there are some exceptions to this.

Some products count as two items, even if they come in the same box. In this unusual situation, you will need to pay 2 NHS fees. As an example, some ‘duo’ products that contain cream and a tablet will be charged as two items, and Hormone Replacement Therapy (also known as HRT) is sometimes classed as two items. Our pharmacy teams can provide you with more information on this oddity if you need further information.

If you’re unsure about how much your medicine will cost, speak to your pharmacist for more information. 

Important. Managing your entitlement to free NHS prescriptions is your responsibility. The NHS carry out random checks and will issue fines to patients who do not hold exemptions at the time the medicine was dispensed. Please notify your pharmacy should your circumstances change.

Managing the cost of prescriptions

If you have several prescription items per month, it may work out cheaper for you to purchase an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). Prices change most years in April and are available in 3-month and 12-month exemption periods. You will make a saving with a PPC if you have 4 or more prescription items in 3 months or twelve items or more in a 12-month period. There is no maximum limit to the number of items that you can receive.

Prescription Prepayment Certificates can be bought online via the NHS business services website. 


Private Prescriptions

Private prescriptions as mentioned previously can be issued by any suitably qualified prescriber but importantly the NHS does not pay for the cost of the medicine. The prescription will need to be paid for and the charge will vary depending on the medicine and quantity prescribed. If you have a private prescription and would like it dispensed our pharmacy teams will be more than happy to help.

Did you know that your vet can write you a private prescription for your animal?  Speak to our pharmacy teams to learn more.

Many medicines like antimalarials and erectile dysfunction treatments are unavailable on the NHS. These are often prescribed privately. For convenience, you can now buy these medicines online directly from us!