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United Kingdom (UK) - Prescriptions and Medications

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is part of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom. The MHRA is able to determine which company, agency, or pharmacy is able to prescribe medicine. There are two categories: independent and supplementary prescribers. Prescribers can either be NHS or private companies. Independent prescribers will assess a person's health and make clinical decisions to help manage an expat’s condition, including any medication that is required. Independent prescribers include general practitioners, hospital doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and optometrists. The list of independent prescribers has certain restrictions on what they can prescribe.

Supplementary prescribers are secondary prescribers in that they work with continuing care once an independent prescriber has set up a medication plan. Supplementary prescribers include nurses, midwives, pharmacists, podiatrists, and physiotherapists. These prescribers are able to prescribe controlled medicines under the clinical management plan. If a medication is not listed on the clinical management plan, then it cannot be prescribed by the secondary prescriber.

Relatives or friends are able to pick up repeat prescriptions. Certain details need to be provided in order for the person to pick up the medication. The United Kingdom makes it easy for those who may need extra help to pick up a prescription from a pharmacy. Expats are not subject to different laws when it comes to medications, except that they will need to bring any current medication lists and medical records, and obtain sign-off from a local GP or NHS doctor to continue their prescription. A written form, telephone call from the doctor, or electronic form can be sent to the pharmacy to ensure the medication is ready to be picked up. The form delineates whether the person is exempt from paying for the prescription or the amount they will need to pay. Expats will typically need to pay for their medications even under NHS health systems.

If you take out extra health insurance for coverage of medications, such as a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), it will only work for the person to whom the medicine has been prescribed. It will not work for any medications you might pick up for someone else. The Medicines Act of 1968 determines what is prescribed to a person based on professional judgment to ensure no one is trying to gain controlled medications for anything other than personal use for a true medical condition.

General Sales List (GSL) medicines are sold in more than just pharmacies. They can be sold in shops, supermarkets, petrol stations, and newsagents. Only a certain strength and pack size can be sold. For higher strengths or larger pack sizes a pharmacy prescription might be required. Prescription medicines can be reclassified from prescription to GSL, but only after significant debate.

For those who use the PPC option prescriptions can be as low as £2 per week, for which a three-month certificate is £29 on average with £104 on average for a 12-month certificate. Certain situations, such as prescriptions from a hospital or NHS walk-in centre, contraceptives, GP medicines, and medicines supplied at the hospital or primary care trust can all be given for free.

Internet Pharmacies

The United Kingdom legislation does allow for prescription medications online. Online pharmacies will fill a prescription by a doctor as long as they have the script and doctor verification. The prescription medication is then sent to the home of the individual receiving the prescription. Restrictions do apply for what can be sent via mail, however.

Pharmacy Hours

Pharmacies are required to be open 40 hours a week. In England and Wales, Boots is the main pharmacy and is generally open from 07:30 to 19:00, except on Sundays when it is closed. Typical pharmacy hours in Scotland and Northern Ireland are 08:00 to 19:00. All pharmacies have out of hours services in the event that picking up a medication is an emergency. Pharmacies within NHS hospitals will be open for those seeking emergency treatment. Most pharmacies are not open on the weekends or holidays, except for NHS pharmacies.

Pharmacy Sign

Pharmacy signs sometimes depict a cross or a mortar and pestle, although the major ones may just be known by their name. In days gone by pharmacies were known as apothecaries. The word ‘chemist’ is used most frequently in the UK.

Major Local Pharmacies

Boots the Chemist

+44(0) 207 623 4768

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Pharmaceutical Society Northern Ireland

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

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