Prescriptions Charges and Exemptions
Extensive exemption and remission arrangements protect those likely to have difficulty in paying charges (NHS prescription and dental charges, optical and hospital travel costs).
The NHS prescription charge is a flat-rate amount which successive Governments have thought it reasonable to charge for those who can afford to pay for their medicines. Prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) offer real savings for people who need extensive medication.
NHS prescription charges:
Prescription Charges in Scotland - Free for everyone
English residents can’t go over the the border to get the cheaper prescriptions – you must be a Scottish resident.
Prescription Charges in Wales - Free for everyone
All prescriptions are free in Wales, but only for welsh residents. English residents can't go over the border to get the free prescriptions.
Prescription Charges in Northern Ireland - Free to everyone
You must be resident in Northern Ireland to get prescriptions for free.
Prescription Charges in England
- Prescription Charge (per item): £8.60 (the price increased from £8.40 on 1.4.17)
- 12-month prepayment certificate (PPC): £104.00 (no price increase)
- 3-month PPC: £29.10 (no price increase)
Please note that the charge is per item (medication) and not per physical prescription. It is no less expensive to have all of your medicaitons printed on one page.
If you will have to pay for four or more prescription items in three months, or more than 15 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a pre-pay certificate.
People who do not have to pay prescription charges include:
- If you are under 16 (under 25 in Wales).
- If you are under 19 and in full-time education.
- If you are aged 60 or over.
- If you (or your partner) gets one of the following:
- Income Support.
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
- If you have an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
- Some war pensioners - if treatment is connected with the pensionable disability.
- If you have a prescription exemption certificate (see below).
- People on a low income who have a certificate HC2 (see below).
If you are entitled to free prescriptions, complete the declaration on the back of the prescription and sign it. You may be asked for proof that you are exempt.
Who can get a prescription exemption certificate?
If you are pregnant or have had a child in the past year
Get form FW8 from your doctor, midwife or health visitor to apply for a Maternity Exemption Certificate. The form is sent off to the Prescription Pricing Authority who will issue the certificate.
People who have certain medical conditions
Although there are many conditions requiring regular medication, only the following qualify for an exemption certificate:
- A permanent fistula requiring dressing.
- Forms of hypoadrenalism such as Addison's Disease.
- Diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism.
- Diabetes mellitus except where treatment is by diet alone.
- Myasthenia gravis.
- Myxoedema (underactive thyroid) or other conditions where supplemental thyroid hormone is necessary.
- Epilepsy requiring regular anti-epilepsy medication.
- If, because of a permanent disability, you cannot leave your home without help.
If you have one of these conditions, get form FP92A from your doctor's surgery and fill it in. This is sent to the Prescription Pricing Authority who will issue a Medical Exemption Certificate.
If you have a Medical Exemption Certificate or Maternity Exemption Certificate, all your prescriptions are free, whatever the medication is for.
prescriptions for contraceptives are also free of charge.
How can people on a low income apply for help?
Some people on a low income may qualify for help with health costs such as prescription charges. Your entitlement to help is based on your circumstances such as your level of income, savings, etc. Use form HC1 'Claim for help with health costs'. See below on how to get this form. You have to fill in the form giving various details of your circumstances. If your application is successful, you will receive either certificate HC2 or HC3.
- Certificate HC2 means that you will not need to pay the following health costs: prescription charges; NHS dental charges; eye tests, glasses and contact lenses; travel to hospital for NHS treatment; wigs and fabric supports.
- Certificate HC3 provides partial help with some of these health costs.
Certificates are usually valid for six months. If your circumstances remain unchanged after six months then, if necessary, make a new claim before the current certificate expires.
Can I claim a refund for a prescription charge I have already paid?
If you are on a low income, but have not yet got certificate HC2, then get a receipt when you pay for your prescription. The receipt is form FP57. You must get this receipt from the pharmacist when your prescription is dispensed. You cannot get one later. When you get certificate HC2, send the receipt form FP57 to the address on the form to get a refund. (Note: if you are claiming a refund for any other health cost such as dental charges, you need to claim on form HC5.)
There is further information about prescription exemptions and fees on the NHS website
How can I get the claim forms?
To get the forms HC1 and HC5 mentioned above:
- contact your local office of the Department of Work and Pensions (the local Jobcentre Plus or 'social security' office) for a claim form. Find your local office in the phone book under 'Jobcentre Plus', OR
- get them from an NHS hospital, OR
- your dentist or optometrist (optician) may stock them, OR
- phone the Department of Health Publications Orderline on 0300 123 1002 (minicom 0300 123 1003) nd ask for a form to be sent to you.
Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC)
If you will have to pay for four or more prescription items in three months, or more than 14 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a PPC. The charge for a single prescription item is £8.60 (from 1st April 2017), whereas a three month PPC will cost you £29.10 and a 12 month PPC £104.00.
Telephone advice and order line 0300 330 1341
General Public - Buy or Renew a PPC On-line
What a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate covers
A PPC covers you for all of your own NHS prescriptions, no matter how many items you needIf you have to pay a prescription charge while you are waiting for your PPC, you may get a refund as long as you have an NHS receipt and refund form FP57. The pharmacist or dispensing doctor can only issue an FP57 at the time you pay the prescription charge - they cannot issue you one later. You can claim the prescription charge(s) back up to three months after paying. The FP57 tells you what to do. But remember the PPC itself can only be backdated by one month.
What if it's cheaper buying your prescribed drug over the counter
One of the topics surrounding NHS prescription charges is that in some cases the drug prescribed, for which you will be paying paying £8.60, can be purchased over the counter without prescription for less.
It is important to get to grips with the system to ensure that you are not paying unnecessarily and, when payment is required, to ensure that you are expending the least possible money in the circumstances.