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Emergency prescriptions explained

Many people need repeat prescriptions for a variety of conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hay fever and other chronic health conditions. Almost half of the UK rely on repeat prescriptions.

If you are in need of an emergency prescription but cannot get to your regular GP, you may still be able to pick up your medication. With Medicspot, you get a same-day online doctor appointment and pick up your medication from your nearest pharmacy.

Sometimes pharmacists can also supply emergency medication if you can show you evidence that you have been prescribed the medication before.

Written by Dr Abby Hyams and Dr Saira Goheer. Last reviewed on 26/05/2020. Next review date 26/05/2023.

Fast facts

Can I get an emergency repeat prescription?

You may be able to get an emergency repeat prescription from your local GP. Your GP will assess you and can prescribe medication and dosage appropriate for your condition. You may also be able to get an emergency supply of medication for repeat prescriptions from your local pharmacist, subject to certain conditions. With Medicspot, you can speak to a doctor online and pick up your prescription from your nearest pharmacy straight away.

Can I call 111 for a prescription?

You should check with your local pharmacist first to see if they are able to provide you with an emergency supply of your medication. If you need medication in an emergency when your usual GP surgery is closed and have run out, you can dial 111 to find an out-of-hours service to get an emergency prescription. You can search 111.nhs/uk to find your nearest emergency prescription service.


Emergency prescription overview

You may need an emergency prescription if you are away from home and are not able to see your regular GP.

We have some useful information in this chapter to help you understand emergency prescriptions, acute prescriptions and repeat prescriptions. We can help with:

  • Can I get an emergency prescription?
  • How to get a prescription?

What is an emergency prescription?

You may need a prescription urgently if you have run out of your regular medication. Your GP should be able to get a prescription sent to your local pharmacy. If you are unable to get your usual prescription from your GP, in some cases you may be able to get your medication from a pharmacist.

What is an acute prescription?

An acute prescription is a prescription which is given typically on a one-off basis. It is not a prescription intended to be given repeatedly for a chronic condition or long-term health issue. For example, your doctor may provide you with an acute prescription if you have some pain following an operation. Your doctor will be able to determine if you need an acute or repeat prescription.

What is a repeat prescription?

Repeat prescriptions are given by your doctor when you have been diagnosed with a condition that needs a specific type of medicine on an ongoing basis. Unlike one-off or acute prescriptions, such as antibiotics for an infection, repeat prescriptions are given for long-term conditions such as diabetes, COPD and high blood pressure. Your doctor may also assess you on an ongoing basis to ensure the medicine prescribed is working and if there are any changes to your condition. Some medications need regular blood tests if you are on them for a long time which your doctor should arrange.

How do I order repeat prescriptions on the NHS?

When you have registered with a GP surgery, you may be able to order repeat prescriptions through their online health services. To find out if you can get a repeat prescription online, check your GP surgery’s website. Through your GP surgery’s website, you may also be able to contact your GP for advice, manage appointments and see some information about your health. Alternatively, you can go into your GP surgery to request more medication and on some occasions your pharmacy can ask your doctor for you.

How much do prescriptions cost?

The cost of your prescription will depend on the medication you require. However, certain medical conditions may exempt you from having to pay for your prescriptions through the NHS. You may also be eligible for a free prescription under the NHS if you are:

  • Under 16 years old
  • 60 years old or older
  • Ages 16-18 and in full-time education
  • Pregnant or have a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • Holding a valid medical exemption certificate
  • Holding a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability

Conditions that may exempt you from paying for prescriptions

You may have a medical condition that may exempt you from paying from your prescriptions. You will need to have a medical exemption certificate in these cases. Your usual doctor can provide this for you. These conditions can include:

  • Cancer
  • A permanent fistula
  • A form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison's disease)
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema (a type of hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
  • Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • A continuing physical disability which prevents you from going out without the help of another person (temporary disabilities do not count, even if lasting several months)

What to do if you run out of medication?

If you have run out of medicine, you can speak to a Medicspot GP via your smartphone and pick up any prescribed medication at your nearest pharmacy. Alternatively you can go to one of our clinics and collect a prescription at the same place after seeing a doctor. Your local pharmacist is also able to provide you with a limited supply of medicines in an emergency, subject to certain conditions.


How to get an emergency prescription

If you find yourself unable to see your regular GP and are in need of a prescription urgently, you may still be able to get your medication.

This chapter has some useful information on how to get emergency medication when you’re away from home or when you need an out-of-hours GP. We can help with:

  • Can I get an emergency repeat prescription?
  • Can a pharmacy issue a prescription?

How do I get an emergency prescription?

To get an emergency prescription you can:

  • See your local GP or walk-in centre for your prescription. They will be able to assess you and provide you with the appropriate prescription for the medication you need.
  • Visit your nearest pharmacy and the pharmacist can supply you with your medication under certain conditions.
  • Call 111 or use an out-of-hours service if you are in need of medication in an emergency and you are unable to see your GP.
  • Register as a temporary patient with someone else's GP if you are far away from home and ask them to do a prescription for you.
  • Speak to a doctor on your smartphone or at your nearest Medicspot clinic. Our doctors can assess you and prescribe emergency medication at their discretion.

Can I get a prescription without seeing a doctor?

It is possible to get an emergency prescription from your pharmacist without seeing your doctor if you have been prescribed your required medication in the past. A pharmacist will be able to provide up to 30 days worth of emergency medication. However, your pharmacist will also:

  • Need to see you face-to-face
  • Need to agree that you need the medication immediately
  • Need to see evidence of your past prescription of the medication
  • Determine the dose of medication that is most appropriate for you

What are the limitations of emergency medication given by a pharmacist?

There are some limitations to the emergency prescriptions your pharmacist can supply you without your prescription. These limitations include:

  • Insulin - a pharmacist will only give the smallest packet size
  • Ointments and creams - a pharmacist will only give the smallest packet size
  • An asthma inhaler - a pharmacist will only give the smallest packet size

How long does it take to get a repeat prescription?

Typically, it can take up to 48 hours to receive a repeat prescription. Every medication will have to be examined to ensure it has been regularly prescribed to you at a certain dose. The prescription is then issued and sent to your pharmacy where a pharmacist will dispense the medication. Your pharmacist will ensure no mistakes are made which could be harmful to your health through careful safeguards.

Due to this process, it is advised that you order your repeat prescriptions at least two working days before you will need a prescription refill or when you only have one week’s supply of tablets left.


Emergency prescription FAQs

There are many cases in which you may need an emergency prescription. You may be away from home and unable to contact your regular doctor.

This chapter has some helpful information on some frequently asked questions about emergency prescriptions. We can help with:

  • What do I do if I lost my prescription medication?
  • Can I get antibiotics from a pharmacy?

Can you buy antibiotics without a doctor prescription?

Typically, you will need a doctor’s prescription in order to get antibiotics. A doctor is able to assess you and determine if you have a bacterial infection. Your doctor will then prescribe you with the necessary antibiotics to treat your condition. Antibiotics work by destroying or slowing down the growth of bacteria. However, they are not effective for viral infections such as the flu, colds and most coughs.

Can a pharmacist prescribe antibiotics?

Some specifically trained pharmacists are able to prescribe antibiotics for certain minor conditions. They are able to prescribe antibiotics when the ailment is not considered serious and will not require any blood or other lab tests. The condition must also last for a short period and be able to be cured with minimal treatment.

Before a pharmacist is able to prescribe antibiotics, they will need to first assess your condition. This can be done in a private consulting room in the pharmacy. The pharmacist will have a detailed discussion about your condition, symptoms and medical history. They may then prescribe you with the appropriate medicine for your condition or refer you to a doctor for further assessment. If your pharmacist prescribes you with antibiotics, they will also send a notification to your doctor to maintain accurate records.

Can I get a prescription over the phone?

For repeat prescriptions, doctors may refill prescriptions over the phone. However, some drugs may not be refilled over the phone. If you are unable to see your GP, you may be able to receive a prescription for your condition through an out-of-hours service or by calling 111.

Can I get a prescription online?

If you need a prescription urgently, you can speak to a doctor online through Medicspot. Our doctors will be able to assess you and can prescribe you with the appropriate medication. You can see what we treat.

Can I pick a prescription up from any pharmacy?

You can typically pick up your medication at any local pharmacy. However, it is helpful to use your regular pharmacy. This way, your pharmacy can keep a record of the medications you are taking and ensure your repeat prescription medication is usually in stock. You may also want to call up the pharmacy you are visiting ahead of time to ensure they are stocked with the medication you need.


Get same-day treatment with Medicspot

Our doctors can provide you with the appropriate prescription for your condition. You can book an appointment and get the right treatment today. We can help with:

  • When can I see a doctor?
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About the authors

Written by Dr Abby Hyams and Dr Saira Goheer. Last reviewed on 26/05/2020. Next review date 26/05/2023.

Dr Abby Hyams

Dr Abby Hyams grew up in Manchester and did her medical training in Bristol. She has been a GP for over ten years, many of them as a partner in an NHS practice in Hemel Hempstead. Dr Hyams loves being a GP because of the wide spectrum of people she encounters every day.

Dr Saira Goheer

Dr Goheer grew up in Glasgow and attended Hutchesons' Grammar. She qualified from Aberdeen University Medical School in 2010. She returned to Glasgow for her GP training. Saira is now based in Edinburgh working as a qualified GP. She started working for Medicspot in 2019 and has a real passion for travel and fitness.


This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Medic Spot Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.