Should I use an Online Pharmacy?

white pills arranged in the shape of a question mark on a bright yellow background

In the UK, you can now nominate to send all your electronic prescriptions to an online pharmacy. You can then order medication online, and have it delivered to your door. This post is about my positive experience using an online pharmacy this year, and how to get around ordering issues.

Pros of Using an Online Pharmacy

  • Saves travelling to a pharmacy and queueing in person
  • No extra cost
  • Easy to use with prepaid prescription certificate
  • Get reminder emails when it’s time to order repeat medication

Cons of using an Online Pharmacy

  • Need to order a few days in advance
  • Have to remember to specify alternative pharmacy at your GP if you need medicine ASAP (like antibiotics)
  • If you pay for prescriptions, payment may be taken automatically when your GP orders for you

My Experience

I started using an online pharmacy in April because I wanted to reduce the time spent ordering and collecting medication as well as decreasing my risk of Covid-19 exposure. I have found it so convenient that I don’t think I’ll switch back.

I used to have to phone the pharmacy (multiple times because the phone was usually engaged), then call ahead a few days later so they could prepare the medication, then go to collect in person and usually queue. On top of this, my local pharmacy had supply issues a couple of times, which meant I had to go back every few days to collect a few tablets at a time. I’m on several medications long-term so cutting out pharmacy trips has made ordering and picking up prescriptions so much easier.

I have a prepaid prescription certificate and I could select this as a payment option online with no problem. It was also easy to change my delivery address and re-nominate the same account from my new GP surgery when I moved house.

The only problem I’ve had was forgetting to ask my GP to send a prescription for antibiotics to my local pharmacy instead of online. This did take several phone calls to sort out but was fixed the same day.

Help! My prescription was sent to an online pharmacy but I need it ASAP

If your nominated pharmacy is online and your GP prescribes you medicine to start taking immediately, it’s best to ask them to send it to your local pharmacy as a one-off. There will be a delay if it’s sent to a nominated (online) pharmacy due to packing and delivery times.

If you forget, and the order hasn’t been shipped by the online pharmacy, it’s not too late.

To rectify an order sent to an online pharmacy by mistake, phone the online pharmacy and tell them you need to collect ASAP from another pharmacy. Then, ask them to put your prescription back on the NHS ‘spine’. This will cancel your order with them and make your prescription available to order elsewhere. This might take a few minutes and they might have to call you back. They’ll then give you a long number code. You will need to phone your local pharmacy with this code, tell them your prescription is on the spine and give them your details and the code. This should allow the local pharmacy to prepare the medication for you.

I would recommend online pharmacies…

If you have repeat prescriptions and want to cut down on pharmacy trips. This has saved me so much time going to the pharmacy, as well as reducing my risk of exposure to covid-19. I haven’t had any problems with supply which has been an issue over the past year at my in-person pharmacy. It’s easy to order and I don’t have to wait in a phone queue or in person at the pharmacy any more.

The pharmacy app or website also makes it easy to see when you last ordered your medication, and can send email reminders when it’s time to reorder repeat prescriptions.

It might not be worth it if…

You order medication infrequently, and need medication on the day more often. It’s also worth noting that if you pay for prescriptions and save your payment details with your nominated pharmacy, you could be charged automatically when your GP sends a prescription through.

To nominate an online pharmacy

You can ask your GP, use the NHS prescriptions app, or most online pharmacies allow you to nominate them through their website. When choosing an online pharmacy, make sure that it is reputable and properly licenced, the NHS guide to ordering prescriptions online is here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/pharmacies/how-to-order-repeat-prescriptions-online/ .

NHS-listed online pharmacies:

Boots (free delivery in England only) (https://www.boots.com/online/pharmacy/)

Echo by Lloyds (https://www.echo.co.uk/)

Pharmacy2U (https://www.pharmacy2u.co.uk/)

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