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Prescription Medication and Charges

One of the main foundations of primary care across the UK, pharmacies are not only the obvious and best option for getting your medicine. Often, they are also your first stop when you have minor ailments – even before your GP! Our article gives you all the details on UK pharmacies.
Prescription medication is not always free of charge.

As you might have guessed, your general practitioner will most frequently be the person who prescribes medication, if necessary. Many harmless ailments can easily be treated with over-the-counter medication you will not need a prescription for. However, if you are seriously ill, seeing your GP is the way to go.

Prescriptions in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are free of charge, provided you are prescribed a drug the NHS pays for. In England, similar to many other countries, most prescription medication does not cost you anything per se, but the prescription does. In 2016, the charge for a single prescription stands at 8.40 GBP.

If you know you will need several prescriptions in the near future, you might want to look into getting a prescription payment certificate (PPC) for either three months (29.10 GBP) or twelve months (104.00 GBP). This will help you to cut down on your medical expenses.

But There Are Exemptions…

Medication given to you by your GP or in a hospital or walk-in clinic is free of charge, as are prescribed contraceptives. There are further exemptions from the prescription charge for people who:

Most of these and similar reasons do probably not apply to the “typical” expat. A full list of exemptions can be viewed on the NHS website.

Online Pharmacies: Convenient But Counterfeit?

Internet pharmacies enjoy a certain level of popularity in the UK, and their benefits are rather obvious. Less obvious are the possible downsides to ordering (prescription) medication online. 

For starters, the regulations for actual chemist’s shops do not extend to the Internet, and online pharmacies are not necessarily registered with the GPhC. Some websites might offer counterfeit medication, and even peddle prescription medication to people who do not actually have a prescription or have diagnosed themselves with an ailment they do not actually suffer from.

It’s needless to say that the use of fake or unnecessary medication can have very serious detrimental effects to your health. If, for some reason, you feel the need to order your medication online instead of going to your local pharmacy, you can look up legitimate online pharmacies on the GPhC website.

The Dos and Don’ts of Importing Medication to the UK

As we have very briefly outlined in our article on customs and import restrictions, there probably won’t be any need to bring along large quantities of the prescription medication you rely on every day. If you pack enough to last you for the first few turbulent weeks before you are settled and have registered with your neighborhood GP, you will probably be fine.

It’s rather unlikely that you won’t be able to get the medication you need in the UK. However, please keep in mind that the medicine you are looking for might have a different brand name here. Be sure to bring the original container and package insert so your GP can find out what the corresponding local name for your medication is.

Please note that the list of controlled drugs is fairly long. Those drugs can only be imported for your personal use with an import license you have to apply for with the Home Office. You cannot bring more than a three-month supply of any substance. For additional information, please see the website.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


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