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What happens if I don’t collect a prescription?

What happens if I don’t collect a prescription?

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 8 Feb 2024

Prescriptions are a crucial aspect of healthcare, providing patients with the necessary medications to treat their conditions. However, what happens if you don’t collect a prescription? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the implications of not collecting a prescription and the potential consequences. We will also delve into the validity of prescriptions, repeat prescriptions, and controlled medicines. Let’s dive in!

Understanding prescription validity

Standard prescription validity

A standard prescription is typically valid for a specific period of time from the date it was issued. In most cases, a standard prescription remains valid for 6 months unless it contains a controlled medicine. The date on the prescription can be either the date it was signed by the healthcare professional or a later date indicated by the prescriber. If both dates are present, the 6-month validity period starts from the later date. This validity period applies to both NHS and private prescriptions.

It is crucial to always follow the instructions provided by the prescribing healthcare professional regarding when to take your medication. Failure to collect your prescription within the validity period may result in the medication being unavailable or requiring additional steps to obtain it.

Repeat prescriptions

Repeat prescriptions allow the same prescription to be dispensed multiple times. The initial dispensing of a repeat prescription must occur within 6 months of the prescription date. However, once the prescription has been dispensed for the first time, it can continue to be valid beyond the initial 6-month period as indicated on the prescription.

Repeat prescriptions provide convenience for patients who require ongoing medication. It is essential to adhere to the instructions provided by the healthcare professional to ensure the continuity of your treatment.

Controlled medicines

Certain prescription medicines, such as morphine, pethidine, and methadone, are classified as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. Due to the potential for misuse, strict legal controls regulate the supply of these medicines.

A prescription for a controlled medicine is typically valid for 28 days from the date it was issued. If the prescription specifies multiple dispensing instalments, the first instalment must usually be dispensed on the specified date or within 28 days of the prescription date.

Consequences of not collecting a prescription

Choosing not to collect a prescription can have various consequences depending on the individual’s circumstances and medical needs. Some potential implications include:

  • Delayed treatment: Not collecting a prescription can result in delayed treatment, potentially exacerbating the underlying condition
  • Disruption of treatment plan: Medications prescribed by healthcare professionals are an integral part of a treatment plan. Failing to collect a prescription can disrupt the prescribed course of treatment
  • Worsening of symptoms: Without the necessary medication, symptoms of a condition may worsen, leading to increased discomfort or complications
  • Missed opportunities for monitoring: Regular collection and use of prescribed medication allow healthcare professionals to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and make adjustments if necessary. Not collecting a prescription can hinder this monitoring process
  • Waste of resources: Healthcare resources, including the time and expertise of healthcare professionals, are invested in prescribing medications. Not collecting a prescription can result in wasted resources and potentially delay treatment for others

It is crucial to understand the potential consequences of not collecting a prescription and the impact it may have on your health and overall treatment plan.

Important considerations

Following prescribed instructions

When prescribed medication, it is essential to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professional or prescriber. These instructions may include specific dosages, frequencies, and any additional guidance related to the medication. Adhering to these instructions ensures the optimal effectiveness and safety of the prescribed treatment.

Prescription collection for someone else

In certain situations, you may need to collect a prescription on behalf of someone else. However, it is important to note that you should have the necessary authorisation to do so. The individual for whom you are collecting the prescription may need to provide consent or make arrangements with the healthcare provider beforehand. Always ensure you have the appropriate permissions and follow the required procedures when collecting prescriptions for others.

Understanding controlled medicines

As previously mentioned, controlled medicines have specific legal regulations governing their supply and use. It is crucial to familiarise yourself with the nature of controlled medicines, the associated legal requirements, and any additional responsibilities that may arise when using or collecting these medications. Being well-informed helps ensure compliance with the regulations and promotes safe and responsible use of controlled medicines.

Managing prescription collection

To avoid the potential consequences of not collecting a prescription, it is important to establish effective strategies for managing prescription collection. Consider the following suggestions:

Organising reminders

Utilise tools such as calendar reminders, smartphone applications, or medication management apps to help you remember when to collect your prescription. Set notifications in advance of the prescription’s expiration date to allow ample time for collection. By organising reminders, you can ensure you are proactive in collecting your medication.

Communicating with healthcare providers

If you anticipate challenges in collecting your prescription, such as travel, logistical issues or short-term memory issues it is advisable to communicate with your healthcare provider in advance. They may be able to provide alternative solutions or make arrangements to accommodate your circumstances. Open communication fosters a collaborative approach to your healthcare and ensures that your needs are met.

Ordering repeat prescriptions online with NowPatient

Ordering repeat prescriptions through the NowPatient app is a straightforward process that can be completed in just a few minutes. You will not have to visit your GP practice to pick up your paper prescription. Instead, your GP will send it electronically to your local pharmacy or the place you choose, saving you time. Here, we will outline the steps for requesting your medications using this convenient platform.

Step 1: Register on the NowPatient app or website

To get started, you will need to download the NHS App on your smartphone or tablet. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices and can be found in the respective app stores. Follow the registration process to create an account and verify your identity. You will need an email address (with more than 6 characters) and a mobile phone number to set up an NHS login.

Step 2: Requesting repeat prescriptions

After successfully registering on the NowPatient, you can now request your NHS repeat prescriptions by using the quick widget on the dashboard or by heading to the NHS Online Pharmacy feature. Here, you will find an option to select and reorder from a list of your repeat medications.

Step 3: Prescription processing and delivery

Once you have submitted and paid for your prescription request, our pharmacy will review and process it. Typically, this process takes around 2-3 working days. The NHS Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) allows most GPs in England to send prescriptions instantly to a pharmacy of your choice, in this case, NowPatient. Your prescription will then be sent electronically to your NowPatient and we will handle the safe and secure delivery of your medication to your front door.

It’s important to note that if you require your prescriptions urgently, online delivery may not be suitable. In such cases, it is advisable to contact your GP or pharmacy directly or seek urgent medical advice by calling 111.

Prescription costs and the NHS

When collecting prescriptions, it is important to be aware of any associated costs. In England, prescription costs are subject to a standard charge, with exemptions available for certain individuals, such as those under 16, over 60, or with specific medical conditions. Other parts of the UK, including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, have their prescription charging systems. Familiarise yourself with the relevant regulations and exemptions to understand the potential costs associated with your prescriptions.


Collecting your prescription is a vital step in your healthcare journey. Failing to collect a prescription can have significant consequences, including delayed treatment, disruption of your treatment plan, and worsening of symptoms. By understanding the validity of prescriptions, the importance of repeat prescriptions, and the regulations surrounding controlled medicines, you can ensure the continuity of your treatment and optimise your overall health and well-being.

Remember to follow prescribed instructions, seek appropriate authorization when collecting prescriptions for others, and be proactive in managing your prescription collection. By staying informed and organised, you can avoid potential complications and make the most of your prescribed medication.


Medical Disclaimer

NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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