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Health costs

Prescription charges vary around the UK.

England

In England, NHS prescriptions are currently charged at £8.80 per item. Some people are exempt from paying prescription charges.

Prescriptions are free if, at the time the prescription was dispensed, you:

  • are under 16
  • are aged 16-18 and in full-time education
  • are 60 or over
  • 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) - for a list of eligible conditions see here
  • have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • are an NHS inpatient.

The application form for a maternity exemption certificate (MatEx) is form FW8 and is available from a doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor. The certificate is valid for a year after the expected date of birth of your baby. If your baby is born late you can apply for an extension.

The application form for a medical exemption certificate (MedEx) certificate is form FP92A and is available from a doctor. The certificate lasts for five years and can be renewed.

You are also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partners) receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit and meet the following criteria.

Or if you're entitled to or named on:

  • a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help.

There are also some situations where medicines are supplied free:

  • prescribed contraceptives
  • medication administered at a hospital or NHS Walk-in Centre
  • medication personally administered by a GP or provided via a Patient Group Direction (PGD)
  • medication supplied at a hospital or a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) clinic for the treatment of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), tuberculosis (TB), or for the treatment of a mental disorder for those subject to a supervised community treatment order.

Help with prescription charges in England

Pre-payment certificates (PPCs) are available to help people who need prescription medicines on a regular basis, but who are not entitled to free prescriptions, to spread the cost of prescription charges. A PPC can save you money if you have to pay for four or more prescription items in three months or 13 or more items in 12 months.

A three month PPC costs £29.10 and an annual PPC costs £104 and cover all prescription costs during the period. An annual PPC can be paid for by direct debit spread over 10 months.

To apply for a PPC either:

For people on low incomes, full or partial help with prescription costs can be provided under the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Scotland

You are entitled to free prescriptions in Scotland if:

  • you are registered with a Scottish GP and you receive your prescription from a Scottish pharmacy
  • you are a Scottish patient who has an English GP and an entitlement card and you receive your prescriptions from a Scottish pharmacy.

Wales

You are entitled to free prescriptions in Wales if:

  • you are a registered with a Welsh GP and you receive your prescription from a Welsh pharmacy
  • you are a Welsh patient who has an English GP and an entitlement card and you receive your prescriptions from a Welsh pharmacy.

Northern Ireland

Prescriptions dispensed in Northern Ireland are free, even for people visiting from England, Wales or Scotland. However, patients are charged a fee for dispensing prescriptions issued in the Republic of Ireland.

Last updated: April 2018
Last reviewed: May 2017
This page will be reviewed within three years

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