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NHS prescription costs

Pharmacist picking blue pills of a medicine shelf
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To help our customers better understand the costs associated with NHS healthcare, we’ve put together this guide to NHS prescription pricing.

A guide to NHS prescription pricing and costs

Having ill health or a long-term disability can be challenging in a number of unexpected ways. At LloydsPharmacy we’ve found that money is often a top priority for our patients and customers – and keeping costs down is vital for avoiding stress, anxiety and daily inconvenience.

How much is the standard NHS prescription cost in England?

The standard prescription cost in England is currently £9.35 per item. That means that if you take in a prescription that lists several types of medication, you will pay £9.35 for each one. In the case of support stockings, each individual stocking is classed as a separate item.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all prescriptions are free for residents (or anybody who is registered with a GP in that country).

Who is entitled to free prescriptions on the NHS?

If you are concerned about the cost of prescription items, it may be worth talking to your GP or your local pharmacy team about whether or not you qualify for free NHS prescriptions.

In England, there are several categories of people who are eligible to receive free NHS prescriptions. These categories include:

  • Anyone aged under 16 or over 60
  • Anyone aged 16-18 in full-time education
  • Pregnant women or new mothers who have given birth in the past 12 months with a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • Anyone who has a valid medical exemption certificate as a result of specific disease or disability (you can consult the full list of conditions that make you eligible)
  • Certain people on a low income or receiving benefits
  • People receiving specific pensions

To find out more about who qualifies, consult this guide. Remember that it is your responsibility to find out whether you are eligible; wrongly claiming free NHS prescriptions when you are not eligible may result in a penalty charge of up to £100.

Is it possible to save money on NHS prescriptions?

Yes, it is. If you are someone who picks up NHS prescription medication regularly from the pharmacy, then you may benefit from applying for a NHS prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).

A PPC is a card that you pay for and display whenever you visit the pharmacy to pick up NHS prescription medication. Two types are available:

  • A three-month certificate, priced at £30.25
  • A 12-month certificate, priced at £108.10

  • You can pay for your PPC online, over the phone or by post. If you opt for a three-month certificate, you will have to pay the one-off sum of £30.25 when you apply. If you opt for a 12-month certificate, you can either pay the one-off sum of £108.10 when you apply, or set up a Direct Debit (in this case, 10 installments of £10.81 will be taken from your account over the year).

    Once you have applied and paid for your certificate (or set up your Direct Debit), you will receive your card. You can then show this card in place of payment every time you pick up NHS prescription medication; simply give the pharmacist your valid, in-date card and they will be able to hand over your medication free of charge.

    You can also save money by getting your NHS prescriptions delivered for free with LloydsDirect by LloydsPharmacy.

    Potential Prescription Prepaid Certificate savings

    Applying for a prepaid prescription is a good idea if you are picking up more than one NHS prescriptions every month. You will be able to limit high prescription prices by paying one rate for unlimited medications within a set period.

    • If you pick up two prescriptions a month you could save £116.10 a year (12-month PPC) or £25.85 in three months (three-month PPC)
    • If you pick up three prescriptions a month you could save £228.50 a year (12-month PPC) or £53.90 in three months (three-month PPC)
    • If you pick up four prescriptions a month you could save £340.70 a year (12-month PPC) or £81.95  in three months (three-month PPC)

    If you think this scheme could reduce your prescription costs, click here to learn more and to submit an application.

    NHS Low Income Scheme

    Certain patients struggling with the cost of NHS prescriptions will be eligible for the NHS Low Income Scheme, which can fully fund your prescription costs.

    You can apply for this scheme as long as you don’t have savings or investments of over £16,000 (or £23,250 if you live in a care home). Your application will be assessed with your income, outgoings, savings and investments in mind.

    If your application is successful you will be granted either an HC2 certificate (which entitles you to free prescriptions).


    • Which items are free on the NHS?

      A limited number of prescriptions are free on the NHS in England. The most commonly used free medication in England is contraception. All medicines administered to NHS hospital inpatients are also free.

    • What is the standard private prescription cost?

      If you are obtaining medicines privately and not through the NHS, you can expect prescription prices to vary.

      Unlike NHS prescriptions, private prescriptions will be priced depending upon the product, often as a reflection of whether or not that product is branded. In the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor travel clinic the branded malaria tablet Malarone is priced higher than the off-brand – or “generic” – malaria tablet Atovaquone with Proguanil (which contains the same active ingredients as Malarone).

      If you want to save money on your private prescriptions, you can opt for generic versions of branded medicines. This is also the case with over-the-counter treatments that don’t require a prescription (e.g. generic ibuprofen, which is cheaper than Nurofen but contains the same active ingredient).

      One factor to take into consideration when collecting a private prescription item from LloydsPharmacy is that a minimum of £7.00 is charged; if your private prescription costs less than £7.00, you will be charged the remaining value.

      To learn more about getting private prescriptions dispensed by LloydsPharmacy click here.

    • How do I apply for a Prescription Prepayment Card?

      It’s very easy to apply for an NHS prepayment certificate. You do not require permission from your doctor; all you need to do is visit this page to find out how you can apply online, by post, on the phone or in your local pharmacy.

    • How much is a one-off NHS prescription?

      Currently, prescriptions in England are charged at £9.35 per item. Therefore if you have a prescription with more than one item on it you will pay £9.35 per item.