Over a billion NHS prescription items are issued in England each year a cost of over £9 billion.

Many of these prescriptions are for medications to manage long-term health conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease). Currently they are issued through the ‘repeat prescribing’ system. This allows patients to request further supplies without a doctor’s appointment.

However, a new study has suggested that prescriptions longer than 28 days could be better for patients.

Leading researcher Dr. King said:

Given our study results, CCGs and local NHS may wish to reconsider current recommendations for 28-day prescription lengths for patients with stable chronic conditions.

The study found that patients with 120-day prescriptions were more likely to take their medicine consistently.

Longer prescriptions would also reduce costs in GP admin workload and pharmacy dispensing. It would also reduce costs to the patient.

Dt Ruprt Payne, another of the study’s authors said:

This has been a contentious issue for many years. Our research shows that the current recommendations to issue shorter prescriptions have been based on a lack of sound scientific evidence.

There is the potential for longer prescriptions to lead to important benefits, by improving patients’ adherence and thus the effectiveness of the drugs, lessening workload for health care professionals, and reducing inconvenience and costs to patients.


Would you benefit from longer prescriptions? What do you think of these results?


Published on 9 May, 2019 (updated 29 Apr, 2024)

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4 comments on "Should GPs give longer prescriptions?"

  • Healthwatch Bucks replied on 15th May 2019

    Yes, I am all in favour of longer prescriptions for chronic illnesses. This would be a great saving in time and money all round. As long term sufferers who can not manage without the drugs we are hardly likely to abuse the system.

  • Healthwatch Bucks replied on 15th May 2019

    When I first started to receive regular medication for my high cholesterol over 20 years ago, after several months of 28 day renewals I asked my GP, when the results of the blood test to check the effectiveness of the Statin were discussed and he extended its use for a further 12 months, if the period for renewal could in future be 3 or 6 months in order to save everyone time and effort. No satisfactory explanation as to why the ‘rules’ dictated monthly renewals was forthcoming.

    Once the suitability of a medication for long term use for the patient is established, logic and common sense tells us that a renewal period for repeat prescriptions of at least 3 months is a no-brainer, as it will benefit the recipients in not having to order and collect every 28 days and save significant sums of the NHS budget by handling repeat prescriptions in a far more efficient way.

    I would definitely benefit from a longer repeat prescription period and I am fortunate enough to live in the community where my GP surgery and a High Street pharmacy are located. Those living in the nearby villages (which constitute 50% of those registered with the GP practice) would very clearly benefit to a greater extent than myself.

    Has the question been asked and the answer obtained as to how other developed nations with something akin to the NHS handle this matter and what can therefore be described as best and most effective practice?

  • Commenter said on 15th May 2019

    I already receive 56 day prescriptions but even longer would be really useful. My medications for a long term condition (Rheumatoid Arthritis) have changed very little in the past 15 years. I try to reduce medications occasionally to see what happens and this just confirms that I still need them.
    I think longer prescriptions for patients who are compliant and of full mental capacity, or have close supervision of their medications, would be efficient and convenient.

  • Commenter said on 20th May 2019

    Makes a lot of sense for patients and GP staff.

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