NHS Prescriptions

Do you qualify for free NHS prescriptions?

 You can get free NHS prescriptions if you:

  • Live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • 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 (MatEx)  
  • Have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • Have a continuing physical disability which means you can't go 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
  • Or you are an NHS inpatient

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 HC2 certificate (full help with health costs), or you receive either:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

If you have a low income you may receive financial help through the NHS Low Income Scheme. To apply for an HC2 certificate, you should complete form HC1, which is available from Jobcentre Plus offices or most NHS hospitals. Your doctor, dentist or optician may be able to give you one too. You can also get an HC1 form by calling 0845 610 1112.

Whether you qualify for help is based on a comparison between your weekly income and assessed requirements at the time the claim is made.

You will qualify for a full help HC2 certificate (which includes free NHS prescriptions) if your income is less than or equal to your requirements..

You will qualify for a limited help HC3 certificate if your income is greater than your requirements by more than half the current prescription charge. The HC3 certificate shows how much you have to pay towards your health costs.

Certificates are usually valid for periods of between six months and five years, depending on your circumstances.

Do you live in England and have to pay prescription charges?

You could save money by buying a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC).

As at April 1 2011 prescription costs for people living in England are:

  • £7.40 for a prescription
  • £104 for a 12-month prepayment certificate (PPC)
  • £29.10 for a 3-month PPC

You can only use the PPC for your own NHS prescriptions.

The PPC will start from the date of your application or phone call unless you request a different start date. You can request a start date of up to one month earlier or one month later than the date of your application or phone call.

You can choose to pay for a 12-month PPC in a lump sum or by 10 monthly Direct Debit installments. If you pay by Direct Debit you are entering into a commitment to pay all the installments. You can order a PPC on-line, by phoning 0845 850 0030 or by filling in an FP95 form. An FP95 form is available from some pharmacies and GP surgeries. 

Remember to apply for a new PPC in good time. If you don't you will have to pay prescription charges when your old PPC runs out.

If you have to pay a prescription charge while you are waiting for your PPC, you can't get a refund unless you have an NHS receipt. The NHS receipt form is an FP57. The pharmacist or dispensing doctor can only issue an FP57 at the time you pay a prescription charge. They can't give you one later. You can claim for the refund of prescription charges up to three months after paying. The FP57 form tells you what to do.

Prescription charges coalition

NASS is one of 25 registered charities calling on the Government to abolish unfair prescription charges in England for people with long term conditions. To read more about the campaign and how you can help click here.