Free NHS prescriptions in England, are you entitled?
A simple guide to free NHS prescriptions in England
If you’re someone who regularly takes medication, you’ll know that it can be expensive and time-consuming to be constantly picking up and paying for prescriptions. At LloydsPharmacy, we’re always looking for new ways to make the prescription process easier and more affordable for our customers and patients. That’s why we’ve put together this simple guide to free NHS prescriptions in England.
Am I entitled to free NHS prescriptions?
The first thing to note is that all NHS prescriptions are free if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
In England, there are many different categories of people who are eligible for free NHS prescriptions. In each case, a factor like age or income is taken into account to ensure that people are charged fairly.
All NHS prescribed contraception in England is completely free.
You are eligible for free prescriptions if you are:
- Under 16
- Aged 16-18 and in full-time education
- Aged 60 or over
If your date of birth appears on your prescription, there’s no need to bring ID to the pharmacy to collect your medicine. Students aged between 16 and 18, however, may need to supply proof to the pharmacist that they are in full-time education.
There are various financial circumstances under which you become eligible for free NHS prescriptions.
If you receive Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance you can get:
- Free NHS prescriptions
- Free NHS dental treatment
- Free NHS sight tests
- Free NHS wigs and fabric supports
- Money towards glasses, contact lenses and travel for medical appointments
What medical exemptions from prescriptions may I be entitled to?
You are eligible for an NHS tax credit exemption certificate, which allows you access to the benefits listed above, if:
- Your annual family income, used to work out your tax credits, is £15,276 or less and you receive Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit paid together
- Working Tax Credit including a disability element
If you have a valid HC2 certificate, as part of the NHS Low Income Scheme, you will be eligible for free prescriptions.
It’s possible to qualify for free prescriptions when you are receiving Universal Credit, provided that your earnings from your most recent assessment period were £435 or less (or £935 or less if your Universal Credit covers a child or limited capability for work). Under these circumstances, you will qualify for the benefits listed above.
Pregnancy and maternity
If you are pregnant, or have given birth in the past year, you are entitled to free NHS prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment. However you will need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate.
You can apply for your certificate once you have confirmation of your pregnancy from your midwife, doctor or health visitor. The certificate will last for 12 months from either your due date or the birth of your baby.
If you have to pay for NHS prescriptions while you are waiting for your certificate to arrive, you will be able to claim a refund later. Make sure you get an FP57 form when you are paying for your NHS prescription, and bring it back later once you have your card.
Medical conditions and disability
People living with certain medical conditions are entitled to free NHS prescriptions as long as they have a valid medical exemption certificate. This certificate can be used for five years, or until you turn 60 (when prescriptions become free for everyone). This certificate can only be used for NHS prescriptions and must be shown every time you pick up medication at the pharmacy.
The conditions covered by this scheme are:
- A permanent fistula needing continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
- A physical disability which means you cannot go out without help
- Hypoadrenalism (e.g. Addison’s Disease) requiring substitution therapy
- Diabetes insipidus (and other forms of hypopituitarism)
- Diabetes mellitus (unless the treatment is diet alone
- Myasthenia gravis
- Epilepsy needing continuous anticonvulsive therapy
To apply you will need a form from your doctor; if you aren’t eligible your doctor will let you know.
If you have been awarded a war pension and you are under 60 you can apply for a war pension exemption certificate. This will enable you to claim free NHS prescriptions for the specific disability that relates to your pension (this includes free NHS wigs and fabric supports).
How do I get a medical exemption certificate?
If you’re eligible for a medical exemption certificate (by fitting one of the criteria above) then your doctor will be able to give you a FP92A application form. In the form you must state your condition which your doctor will then need to sign as proof. Once completed, you’ll be asked to send the form to the NHS Business Service Authority using the address listed on their website.
When your form has been received and approved, your medical exemption certificate will be active for five years before it needs to be renewed. It’s your responsibility to keep track of how long your certificate has been active for, although the NHS should send you a reminder before your five years have lapsed. If you continue to claim free prescriptions after your certificate has expired then you may be faced with a fine.
Don’t worry if you lose or damage your certificate, you can contact the NHS Business Service Authority to ask for a replacement which they will send to you within ten days. Be sure to also contact the service if you’ve had a change of address or circumstances as they will need to update your records (your doctor must also be kept informed about any changes you make).
What does a medical exemption certificate cover?
A standard medical exemption certificate (which differs from a maternity, tax credit or war pension exemption certificate) will grant you free NHS prescriptions only. The certificate will not afford you free dental treatment or help with any other health costs. You’ll need to show your certificate each time you collect a new prescription.
Check if you’re eligible
If you’re not sure if you qualify for free prescriptions in England, there’s an easy way to check on the NHS Business Service Authority website. If you don’t qualify for prescription exemption, LloydsPharmacy is still here for you. Using our online services, you can easily request your NHS prescription be delivered to your door for free without the hassle of going to the pharmacy.
If you don’t have an NHS prescription but are looking for a safe, convenient consultation with a clinician, you can use our Online Doctor service for fast treatment and advice without the need for a face-to-face appointment.
What is a Prescription Prepayment Certificate?
If you have a valid PPC you will not have to pay for medication when you collect it from the pharmacy, however this does not count as a free prescription. You can pay in advance for three or 12 months of unlimited prescriptions, and then simply show your certificate when you visit the pharmacy. Learn more here.
Can I get free prescriptions on PIP?
Personal Independence Payment, or PIP, is a scheme that helps with the costs associated with long-term disability or ill health. It is calculated based upon the nature of your disability, and the impact it has upon your daily life.
Unfortunately, receiving PIP does not make you eligible for free prescriptions.
Can I cross the border to get free prescriptions?
If you live in England you cannot cross the border into Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland to pick up a free NHS prescription. Free NHS prescriptions in these countries are only available to residents, or people who are registered to a GP within one of these countries.
You cannot, in other words, take an English prescription into Scotland and expect to pick up your medicine for free!
To find out more about free NHS prescriptions and whether you may be entitled to them, speak to your GP.
Will I have to pay for contraception?
No. All NHS prescribed contraception in England is completely free.