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Superintendent Pharmacist Phil Day

Free NHS prescriptions in England, are you entitled?

There are certain groups of people that are automatically entitled to free NHS prescriptions in England, and the NHS also supports a number of patients with exemption certificates, which help to pay for your prescription costs. If you’re in one of these eligible groups and are on regular medication, you could be entitled to free NHS prescriptions in England.

A guide to free NHS prescriptions in England

In England the standard NHS prescription charge is currently £9.35 per item. The NHS takes a number of factors into consideration when offering free prescriptions, and the eligibility to apply for an exemption certificate. This includes age and income, and any diagnosed medical conditions. Some prescribed items are always free of charge on the NHS, such as contraceptives.

Am I entitled to free NHS prescriptions?

You’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions if at the time the prescription is dispensed you’re in one of the following groups:

Age

  • aged 60 or over
  • under 16 years old
  • aged 16 - 18 and in full time education

Income

If you receive one of these benefits below, then you, your partner and any dependent aged under 20 are also entitled to free prescriptions.

  • income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

You are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if you or your partner receive:

  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit with Savings Credit

If you’re receiving Pension Credit Savings Credit alone, or contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance then you can apply for help with prescription costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

You are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if you receive:

Tax Credits

If you're entitled to or named on:

  • a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.

You qualify for this if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits including a disability element (or both), and your annual family income for tax credit purposes is £15,276 or less.

Low Income

You can apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme for one of the below certificates:

  • a valid HC2 certificate, for full help with health costs including NHS prescription charges
  • named on a HC3 certificate, but this is only for partial help with health costs and does not entitle you to free NHS prescriptions

Medical reasons

You qualify for free prescriptions if you:

  • are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
  • have specific medical condition and have a valid medication exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • have a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • Medication given to NHS hospital inpatients is always free

Contraception

  • all contraception that is prescribed on an NHS prescription is free

How do I get my NHS exemption certificate?

If you’re in one of the following groups, you’re automatically exempt and do not need an exemption certificate:

  • Aged over 60 or under 16
  • one of the listed income-based benefits:
    • Income Support
    • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
    • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
    • are named on, or entitled to, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate - you qualify for this if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits including a disability element (or both), and your annual family income for tax credit purposes is £15,276 or less.
    • get Universal Credit and meet the criteria

For those in the following groups you must apply to be provided with an exemption certificate:

What medical exemptions could I be entitled to?

If you have one of the following medical conditions, you’re entitled to free NHS prescriptions.

  • cancer, including the effects of cancer
  • a permanent fistula (for example, a laryngostomy, colostomy, ileostomy or some renal dialysis fistulas) requiring continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • a form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison's disease) for which specific substitution therapy is essential
  • diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
  • diabetes mellitus (except where treatment is by diet alone)
  • hypoparathyroidism
  • myasthenia gravis
  • myxoedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
  • epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • a continuing physical disability that means you cannot go out without the help of another person

Find out more here.

How do I get a medical exemption certificate?

You can apply for a medical exemption certificate (MedEx) if you have one of the medical conditions listed above. To apply, your doctor should provide you with an application form. If you’re not sure about the name of your condition, speak to your doctor.

What does a medical exemption certificate cover?

Your medical exemption certificate entitles you to free NHS prescriptions, for all items - not just for medicines to treat or manage the condition that makes you eligible. You can add the details of your exemption certificate to your Pharmacy2U account in the ‘exemption details’ section, and this will allow us to dispense your prescriptions free of change while the certificate is valid.

How do I renew my NHS medical exemption certificate?

If you lose or damage your certificate you can request a replacement here. You need to contact your GP to renew your exemption. If you’re a Pharmacy2U patient we’ll notify you around a month in advance of expiration, the NHS should also remind you too. You can check if your exemption is still valid below.

Check my exemption

How long does a medical exemption certificate last?

Your medical exemption card is valid for 5 years or until your 60th birthday (whichever is sooner). If you’re a Pharmacy2U patient we’ll notify you once your exemption has expired and you should speak to your doctor to re-apply.

Are there any other cost saving certificates I could get?

If you’re not currently entitled to free NHS prescriptions, you could save money with a prescription prepayment certificate. It's like a 'season ticket' in that you pay a set price and this covers you for as many prescriptions as you need until it expires.

There are two options - you can buy a 3 month certificate for £30.25 or a 12 month certificate for £108.10 - which can be paid upfront or in instalments. Depending on the number of prescription items you need in time, one of these options could save you money compared to you paying for each prescription individually.

Find out more

Prescription fraud

It’s your own responsibility to check that you’re entitled before claiming free prescriptions. If you claim free prescriptions that you’re not entitled to, you could have to pay a penalty charge of up to £100 to the NHS.