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Private vs NHS Prescriptions Explained

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From the questions we receive, it is clear that there is a lot of public confusion with regard to prescriptions in the UK. Questions range from “I am eligible for NHS prescriptions so why do I have to pay more?” to “I have medical insurance, can I claim back on your service?” We hope this guide to UK prescriptions will help explain the difference between a prescription that has been issued privately and a prescription that has been issued on the NHS.

What is the difference between an NHS prescription and a private prescription?

1) Cost – an NHS prescription is much cheaper!

An NHS prescription costs £7.40 (correct as of 1st September 2011). The price includes 2 components:

  • The cost of the doctor issuing the prescription
  • The cost of the medication - subsidised by the NHS

With a private prescription, you pay the full cost (unsubsidised) of the medication. In addition, you may or may not pay a fee to the doctor to issue the private prescription.

2) Availability – not all treatments are available on an NHS prescription.

Treatments definitely not available on the NHS include Propecia (hairloss), Priligy (Premature Ejaculation) and Intrinsa (Libido Loss).

Viagra, Cialis and Levitra (including Levitra Orodispersible and Cialis Daily) are available on the NHS but you need to meet the NHS’s strict qualification criteria which, in practice, limits NHS treatment to about 10% of UK sufferers. Even if you do qualify for NHS treatment, you are only allowed x 4 tablets per month – see next FAQ for more detailed information on eligibility criteria.

Some treatments are notionally available on the NHS but it can come down to where you live in the UK – the so-called post code lottery. For example, Malarone (anti-malarial) and some of the more expensive oral contraceptives such as Yasmin are generally only available on a private prescription but might be available depending on your local surgery’s budget or your willingness and ability to push your doctor into prescribing what you want.

Champix (anti-smoking) is available on the NHS for first timers but generally will not be made available for lapsed smokers.

I have erectile dysfunction - do I qualify for Viagra, Cialis or Levitra on the NHS?

Medication for erectile dysfunction (ED) is only available on the NHS for a limited list of medical conditions.

Men whose ED is associated with any of the following conditions are eligible to receive treatment on an NHS prescription:

  • diabetes
  • polio
  • prostate cancer
  • removal of the prostate gland (prostatectomy, including men who have had a transurethral resection of the prostate)
  • kidney failure requiring dialysis
  • kidney transplant
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • radical pelvic surgery
  • severe pelvic injury
  • single-gene neurological conditions
  • spinal cord injury
  • spina bifida.

If ED is considered to cause you severe stress or other psychological issues, you can also receive treatment on the NHS - although this will need to be assessed by a specialist.

Men who were already receiving NHS treatment for erectile dysfunction on 14 September 1998 can continue to receive it on the NHS.

Do all doctors charge a fee to issue a private prescription?

Not all GPs charge a fee for issuing a private prescription so it is worth checking whether or how much your local GP charges. Most GPs do charge however. The standard fee for a GP to issue a prescription privately ranges from around £15-£20. With a private clinic, the fees start from £50 upwards.

An example of the difference in cost between a private and an NHS prescription?

A good example is Viagra

In the UK, only about 10% of people who suffer from erectile dysfunction are entitled to an NHS prescription for Viagra e.g. people with prostate cancer or Type 2 Diabetes sufferers. Where a patient is eligible for NHS treatment, medication is limited to 4 tablets per month.

As a result, we find an increasing number of customers come to us and use our service in order to “top up” their NHS monthly allowance.

Viagra 100mg x 4 NHS Private Doctor
Cost of Medication £7.40 £25.00
Doctor prescription fee Free £20.00
Total cost £7.40 £45.00
How much do you charge for your service?

Our prices include the cost of the medication + the cost of issuing a private prescription by our doctor. There is an additional charge for delivery. We offer an automatic discount of £7.50 on any repeat orders, making our service one of the cheapest online services in the UK.

What are the benefits of a private prescription?

With a private prescription, a doctor is not restricted to offering the minimum number of tablets or the cheapest treatment option. Indeed, a doctor may be happy to offer more than one treatment on the same prescription. For example, when treating erectile dysfunction, he might prescribe a combination of Cialis, Viagra and Levitra, allowing the patient to evaluate the different treatments and determine which of the treatments suits him best.

With the PharmaDoctor private prescription service, our doctors are happy to prescribe ED trial packs giving you the chance to try each of the different treatments under one prescription. Our doctors recommend this strategy for first-time patients as the best way to find the most suitable treatment.

There are 4 x ED Trial packs in the range offering savings of at least 20% compared with buying the treatments individually.

Who can issue a private prescription in the UK?

Any qualified doctor who is either registered with the GMC or with the equivalent body in the EU.

How does your service work?

All prescriptions we issue are private prescriptions issued by our GMC and EU registered doctors.

You register with us in the same way you might register with your local GP practice for the first time. We take your personal details, your general medical background and then ask you specific questions regarding your condition. Our system then allows you to make a provisional selection of treatment(s) subject to our doctor’s approval and authorisation.

Once you have selected your treatment(s), our doctors will review the answers you give regarding your condition. If they are satisfied that treatment is suitable for you, they will issue a private prescription for the requested medication.

We then forward the prescription to our registered partner pharmacy who will then post the medication directly to you at your chosen delivery address. Next day delivery is available.

If my doctor has already given me a private prescription, can I use your service?

No, our service is only available to people who do not have an existing prescription.

If you have an existing prescription, you can have it sent to you by registering an account with . Then select your treatments as per your prescription and post the prescription to .

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