Prescriptions are free for everyone in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Lots of people in England can get free NHS prescriptions. So, the first thing to do if you are looking to cut the cost is see if you are in one of these groups:
You can get free prescriptions if you are:
- Under 16
- Over 60
- 16 to 18 and in full time education
You can get free prescriptions if you have certain medical conditions. These include:
- Diabetes that isn’t controlled by diet alone.
You can find the full list of conditions on the NHS website here.
If you have one of these medical conditions, you can get all your prescriptions for free. Including prescriptions for other conditions. You will need to apply for a medical exemption certificate. Your GP surgery will be able to give you an application form.
If you are pregnant, or you have had a baby in the last 12 months, you can get free prescriptions. You will need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate. Your midwife, doctor or health visitor will complete the application for you. Find out more here.
You can apply for free prescriptions if you, or your partner, receive certain benefits. These include:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
For the full list, see the NHS page here.
There are a few other groups of people who can apply for free prescriptions. For example, some students on a low income. You can find out more about who can get free NHS prescriptions here.
If you are not sure if you can get free prescriptions, the NHS has a tool to help you check here.
If you cannot get free prescriptions, you might be able to save money by buying a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).
This is a bit like buying a season ticket. You can pay for either 3 months or 1 year. You will then be able to get as many prescriptions as you need in that time, without paying any more.
Is it worth it?
If you only need a prescription occasionally. Then a prepayment certificate might not save you any money.
If you need more than 11 prescriptions a year, then you can save money with a prepayment certificate.
For example, if you need 3 different prescriptions every month you can save £228.50 a year by buying a 12 month prepayment certificate.
At the time of writing in March 2023, a 12 month prepayment certificate costs £108.10.
This is a lot of money to find in one go. You can spread it out by paying in instalments by direct debit.
There is also a 3 month prepayment certificate. This currently costs £30.25. This will still save you money if you need more than 3 prescriptions in 3 months. So, it might be a good option if you have a short-term condition that needs lots of medicine.
You can apply for a prepayment certificate online here. You will be able to print it out or get it by email so you can start using it quickly. You will need to show the certificate when you collect your prescriptions.
Many pharmacies also sell prepayment certificates. If your local pharmacy does not, call the NHS helpline on 0300 330 1341 to find one that does.
Check if it is cheaper to buy over the counter
You can buy some medicines at your local pharmacy. Very common medicines, like some painkillers or allergy medicines can cost less than the prescription fee. So before paying for a prescription, ask your pharmacist if it is cheaper just to pay for the medicine.
Ask for a bigger prescription
If you are on long-term medication you can sometimes ask your doctor to prescribe more of your medicine in one go.
For example, getting a 2 month supply instead of 1 month means you will pay the prescription charge once instead of twice. You will also save yourself a trip to the pharmacy.
But this will only work for medicines you are taking for a long time. And if you do not need to change or monitor them regularly.
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