In one of my previous posts, I discussed requirements for patients to receive medication on the basis of an emergency supply. An emergency prescription can be obtained from a pharmacy under CPCS service (previously known as NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Service (NUMSAS) scheme). This service was created to reduce the burden on urgent and emergency care services such as walk in and out of hour centres. CPCS service was launched in September 2019, replacing NUMSAS service (pilot scheme) and at the same time extended to all pharmacies in the UK.
Emergency prescription: requirements
Patients who require urgent medication, previously prescribed by a GP, may be supplied with required medication after a referral from NHS 111 service is made to a pharmacy. In the first instance, patients needs to be contacted by a pharmacy team. When possible, I recommend to contact a pharmacy over the phone, instead of waiting for the phone call. The immediate need for medication is assessed by a pharmacist after initial contact is made.
An emergency prescription can be produced only after calling NHS 111 service and after a consultation with a pharmacist at their professional discretion. Patients cannot go directly to a pharmacy and request an emergency prescription under this scheme.
Similarly to an emergency supply process, patients cannot request an emergency supply for controlled drugs schedule 2 or 3 such as morphine, gabapentin, pregabalin, tramadol. It is possible to receive an emergency supply for a control drugs schedule 4 (for example diazepam) and 5 (for example codeine based medication).
Please note, NHS 111 operator may not know if medication is a controlled drug, and even if a referral is made for an emergency prescription, a controlled drug schedule 2 or 3 would not be supplied to a patient.
In practice other commonly seen request for an emergency prescriptions include request for antibiotics.
During the assessment by a pharmacist, patients are usually asked to give a consent to access their Summary Care Records (SCR), an NHS service, which shows history of their regular medications prescribed by GP.
Patients are usually supplied with a small quantity of medication to cover a few days until a new prescription can be obtained from their regular GP. Legally, however, a supply can cover for up to 30 days of treatment for non-CD drugs and 5 days for CD drugs (schedule 4 and 5).
Emergency prescription: do I have to pay?
One of the advantages of CPCS is that normal prescription costs and exemptions apply when supply is made through this service. Patients sign and select their exemption status or pay NHS prescription fee when medication is collected.
Emergency prescription: alternative option
Alternatively, in emergency, pharmacist is legally allowed to make a supply of prescription only medication without prescription, read more. Providing certain requirements are met, patients can request supply of medication on emergency basis. Patients are charged for emergency supply of medication, regardless of their exemption status.
PSNC (2019). PSNC Briefing 027/19: Five-Year CPCF Deal – Frequently Asked Questions. Available at: