There are several routes men can take now when seeking help for erectile dysfunction. Men can find treatment privately or from their regular NHS GP, in person or online. 

But not everyone can get ED treatment through public or state healthcare systems for free or at the levied rate, and need to be treated privately if these options aren’t open to them. Other men, some of whom may even qualify for ED treatment on the NHS, might be hesitant to bring the subject up with their regular doctor, and prefer to source help privately for these reasons.

On this page, we’ll look at the different options in more detail:

Is ED treatment available on the NHS?

It is available for some men on the NHS, under certain conditions.

It mostly depends on your definition of ‘getting treated on the NHS’: for some people this means acquiring a medication from the NHS free of charge; whereas for others, it means getting medication at the reduced rate or standard levy (currently £8.60 - correct at the time of writing) offered by the state health service.

Viagra itself, as in the named product developed by Pfizer, is only available on the NHS for free or at the standard levy under specific circumstances. Sildenafil, the generic version, tends to be more widely offered.

Most men looking to get Viagra will typically need to do so privately, at the regular market price. An NHS GP may also charge a rate for issuing a private prescription (for those doses which require a prescription).

You won’t need to go to any specialist pharmacy to get Viagra with a private prescription. Most high street chemists and online pharmacists do stock the drug, and if they don’t, they should be able to order it.

Furthermore, Viagra Connect (originally Viagra 50mg) is now a pharmacy medicine, and does not require a prescription from a doctor (although a pharmacist will need to ask the patient some health questions before issuing

So which erectile dysfunction treatments can I get on the NHS?

The generic version of Viagra, which is a tablet called Sildenafil, is the most widely available ED treatment on the NHS.

It was made available by the Department of Health in 2014, following a consultation[1] with 87 doctors.

Sildenafil contains the same active ingredient as Viagra, performs the same function in the body, and is available at the same dosage integers.

However, Sildenafil on the NHS is not available to anyone with ED. Only men with certain conditions are entitled to the treatment for free, or at the standard levy rate.

In specific cases, some men may be able to get branded ED medicines such as Viagra or Cialis on the NHS too.

Generic versions of Cialis (Tadalafil) and a treatment often offered to older men or those with pre-existing conditions, Levitra (Vardenafil) have been released since Sildenafil was made available on the NHS. But it isn’t known yet whether these drugs will be as widely prescribed as alternatives to Sildenafil.

Non-tablet treatments, like Caverject, MUSE, Vitaros and Viridal, are not widely provided on NHS prescriptions. But, in special circumstances such as those listed above, where oral treatments haven’t worked, an NHS GP may be able to issue them on an NHS prescription.

Who is entitled to branded treatment?

Persons who have: diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, polio, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease or spina bifida.

ED treatment is also made available on the NHS for some men who have undergone dialysis, a kidney transplant, a prostatectomy or surgery on the pelvis.

Are ED treatments on the NHS free?

In some cases, yes, but not always. There may be other criteria[2] patients have to meet in order to be entitled to free NHS treatment.

And in the case of Sildenafil, it might only be issued without charge to those patients who are experiencing severe episodes of impotence, potentially causing serious emotional or relationship implications.

Furthermore, a measured supply of the drug is issued to those in such cases; and so is not technically ‘free’.

What constitutes a measured supply?

The amount of Sildenafil issued on an NHS prescription is four tablets per month, which amounts to one dose a week.

Do you always need a prescription for ED treatment?

It used to be the case that you could only get licensed ED medicines on prescription. Since 2018, this is no longer the case. The median dose of Viagra (50mg) is available without a prescription. 

Viagra 25mg and 100mg must be prescribed for you by a doctor, even if you are entitled to free NHS treatment. It is also likely that your doctor will need to monitor your usage of the drug and its rate of success after prescribing it.

You can buy Viagra 50mg (or Viagra Connect) from a pharmacist without the need for a prescription. In 2018, its status changed from a prescription-only medicine (POM) to pharmacy-line medicine (P) in the UK.

Before being able to purchase Viagra Connect at a high street pharmacy such as Boots, you will still need to answer medical questions from a pharmacist about your general health before it can be issued.

Can I get Viagra and other ED treatments online?

An easy and convenient alternative for those not entitled to Sildenafil on the NHS is to get ED treatment online. This method enables the buyer to maintain total privacy and saves them a trip to their chemist.

Over the years, the internet pharmacy industry has been open to fraudulent practices.

But there are simple checks you can do to make sure you’re buying genuine ED medication from a trusted seller.

Getting treatment online may give you more choice than you would necessarily find if you were being issued treatment by an NHS doctor. Whereas a GP may need to stick to prescribing guidance on which drugs to offer, this isn’t as likely to be the case with an online pharmacy. They’ll normally have different varieties of treatment available that include those that aren’t as well known, such as Spedra.

How can I get ED treatment privately?

Private health clinics and doctors are fairly common up and down the country. Rather than being run by the NHS, they’re staffed by clinicians who charge patients per visit or per action taken (so for example, they may charge a prescribing fee or an appointment fee).

Doctors who practice privately will be able to provide private treatment for ED. So you may end up paying for a prescription, your appointment and your treatment separately (when you visit you visit a pharmacy to have your prescription dispensed).

NHS GPs can also provide prescriptions on a private basis. This means their action doesn’t fall under NHS funding, so they’ll need to charge a private fee to, for example, issue a prescription. Again, when you get a private prescription from your GP, you’ll need to pay for your actual treatment at the pharmacy separately.

Getting ED treatment from your supermarket or high street chemist 

In recent years, supermarket pharmacies have moved into offering consultations for ED in store. These are normally undertaken with a pharmacy prescriber, but pharmacists can perform them as well and recommend treatments like Viagra Connect. High street pharmacies like Boots and Superdrug also offer these services.

This consultation will normally be done on a private basis, so there may be an additional fee for this (on top of the price you pay for the medication).

This route may not appeal to everyone. Although you will be taken into a consultation room in most cases to discuss symptoms and medication options, chemists and supermarkets can be populated places sometimes, so raising the issue across the counter may seem daunting. And some men may not relish the idea of discussing their problems with someone face to face, and prefer to do this online.   

On the other hand, if you already have a prescription for Viagra or Cialis issued from somewhere else, you can forego this and just pay to have your medication dispensed.

Read more about getting ED treatment from a supermarket or chemist.

Page last reviewed:  24/07/2020