The good news – if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland there are no prescription charges.
The bad news – in England, if you do not qualify for free prescriptions (see below), you will be charged for each item of medicine (currently £9.60; April 2023) the doctor recommends you take. Sometimes the costs involved can put people off going to their GP or picking up their medicines and this may have serious health implications, especially if you have an infection that needs prompt treatment.
We recommend you check first to see if you qualify for free prescriptions and if not, you look at the options on offer, such as prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs), to help reduce the costs and worry involved.
Find out if you qualify for free prescriptions in England
You can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is given out, you:
- are 60 or over
- are under 16
- are 16–18 and in full-time education
- are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate called a MatEx
- have a specified medical condition (unfortunately having a primary immunodeficiency does not qualify) and have a valid medical exemption certificate called a MedEx
- have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid MedEx
- hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
- are an NHS inpatient.
For queries about medical exemption (MedEx) certificates, call 0300 330 1341.
You are also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partners) are named on, or are entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate or a valid ‘help with health costs’ form (known as HC2), or you receive either:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Universal Credit.
It is always worth checking with your hospital, doctor or Jobcentre Plus office to see if you qualify.
Medicines that you are given directly (not through a prescription), as part of care at a hospital, an NHS Walk-In Centre or at a GP’s surgery, are also free.
Ring 0300 330 1349 for the prescription services helpline.
Help with prescription costs
If you don’t qualify for free prescriptions then it is worth considering these options:
You can ring the Low Income Scheme helpline on 0300 330 1343.
- Consider buying a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). It can save you money as it means you can get as many medicines as you need for as long as your certificate lasts.
PPCs are available for either a 3-month or 12-month period.
A three-month PPC is £31.25. This saves you money if you need three prescribed items in three months.
A 12-month certificate is £111.60 and saves you money if you need more than 11 prescribed items in a year.
PPCs are also available by paying 10 monthly direct debit instalments.
How to buy a PPC
Ring 0300 330 1341. You will be asked for the following information:
- Your full name
- Your full address, including postcode
- Your date of birth.
Or you can apply online via the website https://services.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/buy-prescription-prepayment-certificate/start by completing the application form.
You can make payment using a debit or credit card.