A guide to free NHS
prescriptions in England

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Have you checked recently to see if you qualify for free NHS prescriptions?

In England the standard NHS prescription charge is currently £9.65 per item (as of 1st April 2023). The NHS takes several 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:

How do I get my NHS exemption certificate?

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

  • Medication exemption certificates - you can apply by contacting your doctor

  • Maternity exemption certificates - you can apply for a maternity exemption certificate by contacting your doctor, midwife, or health visitor

  • NHS tax credit exemption certificates

  • Students aged 19 and over can apply for help through the NHS low income scheme. You can apply online in certain circumstances, otherwise you'll need to complete a HC1 form and post it to the address provided. You can order a HC1 form online.

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.

If you’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions, you can add details of your exemption certificate in your Pharmacy2U account and have your medicine delivered for free too.

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.

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.

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 £31.25 or a 12-month certificate for £111.60 - 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.

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