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Are you missing out on free NHS prescriptions?

Phil Day: Superintendent Pharmacist | minute read

Recent reports suggest that large numbers of people may be going without their medication due to increasing cost-of-living pressures. The National Pharmacy Association found that 90% of pharmacies in England reported working with patients who regularly go without their prescribed medicines because they cannot afford them.

The industry is now encouraging anyone who may be struggling financially to check their eligibility as they may qualify for free NHS prescriptions. There are several categories for exemption.

Free prescriptions based on age and health

Medical and age-based exemptions are available for those who:

  • are under 16 years of age

  • are 16-18 and in full-time education

  • are aged 60 and over (this is currently under review and could soon be 66)

  • are pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months

  • have a valid medical exemption certificate due to a specified health condition such as cancer or diabetes

  • receive inpatient treatment at an NHS hospital

  • rely on support from a care giver to leave the house and hold a valid medical exemption certificate

  • have a war pension exemption certificate

How do I get a medical exemption certificate?

A medical exemption certificate can be applied for using a form signed by your doctor. Once approved, the certificate will be valid for five years. You can then apply to renew it. If you already have a certificate and want to check how long it’s valid for, you can use this NHS tool. For expectant and new mums, a maternity exemption certificate can be obtained through your GP, midwife, or health visitor.

Free prescriptions based on income

Those receiving existing financial support could also be eligible if they are awarded:

  • Universal Credit as an individual claimant with a net monthly income of below £435

  • Universal Credit and limited capability for work with a net monthly income of below £935

  • Universal Credit with a childcare component and a net monthly income of below £935

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Pension Credit Guarantee

If you’re not sure whether you are eligible, you can use the NHS eligibility checker to see if your circumstances mean you’re entitled to help with healthcare costs.  If you are eligible for free NHS prescriptions and you're a current Pharmacy2U patient, this video shows you how to easily update your exemption in your account dashboard. 

What if I’m not eligible for free prescriptions but still need help?*

If your circumstances don’t qualify you for help with your prescription costs, an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) could save you money. You can buy a certificate to cover three months or one year so you can choose the option that best suits you. A three-month PPC costs £31.25 and a 12-month certificate costs £111.60 If you collected two prescriptions per month for one year, the cost would total £231.60. A PPC in this instance would save you £120 over 12 months.

How much could an NHS PPC save me?*

*All figures correct as of financial year 2023-2024

Medications prescribed monthlySavings with a 12 month PPCSavings with a 3 month PPC
2£120+ per year£26+ in 3 months
3£235+ per year£55+ in 3 months
4£351+ per year£84+ in 3 months