When receiving mental health treatment, many people use the services provided by the NHS. However, some people opt for private healthcare.

Regardless of which path you choose, you may be offered a prescription for some medicine from your doctor. But it is important to know that there is a difference between the prescriptions.

Some people seek private healthcare rather than the services offered by the NHS

NHS or private healthcare?

Many people do not have a choice when it comes to choosing between the NHS or private healthcare due to the cost involved.

Most people seek mental health treatment through the NHS. But some people have access to private healthcare and can seek treatment through private means.

Patients often seek therapy before seeing if medicine can help them. They can therefore choose between NHS or private therapy – with advantages to both – as seen in this article.

NHS Prescriptions

The majority of people will receive an NHS prescription. This typically happens when a patient has an appointment with a GP and they issue a prescription afterwards.

It may also be given to them through a mental health professional – though only certain types of professionals can prescribe medicine. You can read more about prescriptions here.

If you are prescribed a medicine by your GP you will need to pay the amount for a NHS prescription – which is £9.65 per item. This is correct at the time of writing – for the most up to date charges, please see the NHS’s website at this link.

This is a fixed price regardless of the medicine. It is a very simple system when it comes to getting an NHS prescription. Most are sent electronically to a pharmacy of your choice.

Private Prescriptions

For patients who have private healthcare, they will typically be given a “private” prescription from their clinician. Private doctors are not allowed to issue NHS prescriptions due to not being part of the NHS.

The cost of a private prescription is often higher. But it can sometimes be cheaper. With a private prescription the patient will need to pay the full cost of the medicine – normally in addition to a dispensing fee.

This charge is often covered by your insurance company. But it is strongly recommended that you find this out beforehand in order to avoid any large charges!

There won’t be a consistent price between different pharmacies. They are businesses that need to compete. Some might be cheaper than others, so it might be worth calling ahead.

There are some advantages to private prescriptions. These include shorter waiting times for an appointment and a wider range of medicines. Only certain medicines are available on the NHS. This does though come at a high cost.


For most people the discussion between private prescriptions or NHS prescriptions is a moot point – as there is no choice in the matter. But for some, it is a consideration to make.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both, with cost, choice and waiting times all factors to take into account when deciding which is the best route to go for.

See Also



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If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.