Prescription Fees

The NHS prescription charge is a flat-rate amount which successive Governments have thought it reasonable to charge for those who can afford to pay for their medicines. Prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) offer real savings for people who need extensive medication.

NHS Charges

As of 1 April 2015, the charges are:

•The current prescription charge is £8.20 for one item.
•A three monthly PPC is £29.10. This saves you money if you need four or more items in three months.
•A 12 month certificate is £104.00 and saves money if 15 or more items are needed in 12 months.

If you will have to pay for four or more prescription items in three months, or more than 14 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a PPC. Telephone advice and order line 0845 850 0030

Buy or renew a PPC online or renew a PPC online

Who is entitles to free prescriptions

 You can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, you:

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

You are also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partners) are named on, or are entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate or a valid HC2 certificate (full help with health costs), or you receive either:

•Income Support
•Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
•Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
•Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
•Universal Credit

Find out more about the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).

Medical exemptions

People with certain medical conditions can get free NHS prescriptions if:

•they have one of the conditions listed below, and
•they hold a valid medical exemption certificate.

Medical exemption certificates are issued on application to people who have:

•a permanent fistula (for example caecostomy, colostomy, laryngostomy or ileostomy) requiring continuous surgical dressing or requiring 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
•myasthenia gravis
•myxoedema (that is, hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
•epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
•a continuing physical disability which means the person cannot go out without the help of another person. Temporary disabilities do not count even if they last for several months
Or are undergoing treatment for cancer:

•including the effects of cancer, or
•the effects of current or previous cancer treatment
Also read the medical exemption certificate FAQ.

How to apply for a medical exemption certificate

To apply for a medical exemption certificate ask your doctor for an FP92A form. Your GP, hospital or service doctor will sign the form to confirm that your statement is correct. At your GP's discretion, a member of the practice who has access to your medical records can also sign the form.

Your certificate will be valid from one month before the date that the NHS Business Authrority receives the application form.

The MedEx lasts for five years and then needs to be renewed. You may receive a reminder that your certificate needs to be renewed. If you don't receive a reminder, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is renewed.

You can find more information about the application process and refunds on the NHS Business Authority's website.

Exemption for pregnant women

If you are pregnant, or have had a baby in the last 12 months, you get free:

•NHS prescriptions, but only if you have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
•NHS dental treatment if, when you are accepted for a course of treatment, you are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
To apply for your maternity exemption certificate (MatEx) ask your doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor for form FW8. You complete parts 1 and 2 of the form and your doctor, midwife or health visitor signs it to confirm that the information given by you is correct.

Your MatEx will last until 12 months after the expected date of birth of your baby. If your baby is born early you can continue to use your MatEx until the certificate expires. If your baby is born late you can apply for an extension. If you apply after your baby is born, your MatEx will run for 12 months from your baby’s birth.

For more information on how to apply for a MatEx visit the NHS Business Services Authority website.

I am on a low income, how can I get help with NHS charges?

If you are on a low income you may be eligible to receive financial help through the NHS Low Income Scheme. To apply for an HC2 certificate, you should complete form HC1, which is available from Jobcentre Plus offices or most NHS hospitals. Your doctor, dentist or optician may be able to give you one, too. You can also get an HC1 form by calling 0845 610 1112.

Whether you qualify for help is based on a comparison between your weekly income and assessed requirements at the time the claim is made. For more information about requirements visit NHS: help with health costs.

You will qualify for a full help HC2 certificate (which includes free NHS prescriptions) if your income is less than or equal to your requirements, or your income is greater than your requirements by no more than half the current English prescription charge.

You will qualify for a limited help HC3 certificate if your income is greater than your requirements by more than half the current English prescription charge. The HC3 certificate shows how much you have to pay towards your health costs.

Certificates are usually valid for periods of between six months and five years, depending on your circumstances.

Find out more about the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).

How can I claim a refund?

Ask your pharmacist, hospital or doctor for an NHS receipt form FP57 when you pay for your prescription. You can't get one later. You have to apply for a refund within three months of paying the prescription charge.

If you have paid for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) and have become exempt from paying for prescriptions, you may be able to get some or all of the money back for your PPC.

An explanation of how to claim a refund of your PPC fee can be found on the NHS Business Services Authority website or in leaflet HC11: help with health costs (PDF, 453kb). You can also obtain the leaflet from the DH publications order line on 0845 610 1112.

Information from NHS Choices website.