How to get free NHS prescriptions as UK medicine costs skyrocket – full list of support

Universal Credit made 'more generous' by Chancellor says expert

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NHS prescriptions have to be paid for by most adults in England, with the current prescription charge being £9.35 per item. While this may not seem like a lot of money initially for one-off prescriptions, new research shows Britons are now spending around £383 a year on medication – a 12.56 percent increase since 2018.

Free NHS prescriptions

According to research from NiceRx, pharmaceutical spending in the UK is now the 19th highest in the world. While this may be disheartening, it should be noted the NHS offers free prescriptions to those in specific circumstances and financial difficulties.

Currently, those aged 60 or over receive free prescriptions, although this may change in England in the coming years as the Government is currently consulting on raising this free prescription age to align with the state pension age.

Additionally, those under 16, or aged between 16 and 18 while being in full-time education, can get free prescriptions.

Free prescriptions are also awarded to those who hold a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx). These are typically given to those who are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, have a specified medical condition or have a continuing physical disability that prevents them going out without help from another person.

Finally, those holding a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for an accepted disability will not pay any prescription costs, nor will NHS inpatients.

Free prescriptions and benefits

Benefit claimants may also be eligible for free prescriptions. Claimants will be eligible if they, or their partner, 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, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or Universal Credit and meet the criteria.

Universal Credit claimants specifically will qualify if, on the date they claim help with health costs, they receive Universal Credit and either had no earnings or had net earnings of £435 or less in their last assessment period or, they receive Universal Credit, which includes an element for a child, or they (or your partner) had limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA), and they either had no earnings or net earnings of £935 or less in their last assessment period.

Some benefit claimants may also hold a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate. These are awarded where claimants get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.

To check if one qualifies for free NHS prescriptions, they can use a free eligibility checker which is found on the NHS website.

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Free prescriptions for those on a low income

Those not on benefits, but still on a low income, may qualify for free prescriptions through the NHS Low Income Scheme. This scheme awards eligible claimants with a HC2 certificate which grants help with health costs.

To get this certificate, claimants will need to complete a HC1 form, which is available from Jobcentre Plus offices or most NHS hospitals. They can also be requested from doctors, dentists or opticians.

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

Those with income greater than their requirements by more than half the current English prescription charge may be issued with a HC3 certificate. This certificate offers limited help with healthcare costs and will show how much the holder is required to pay.

Prescription Prepayment Certificates

Savers can also buy Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPCs) from the NHS which may make their prescriptions cheaper. It should be noted however that PPCs are only available to those living in England.

A three or 12 month PPC will cover all of a person’s prescriptions for that period, no matter how many is needed. PPCs cost £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for 12 months.

This means those buying four or more prescriptions in three months, or 12 or more prescriptions in 12 months, may save money by buying a PPC.

These certificates can be bought online through the NHS website. They can also be ordered over the phone by debit or credit card on 0300 330 1341.

Those who buy a 12 month PPC can spread the payments over 10 monthly instalments.

Those with significant health issues may receive extensive support through Personal Independence Payments (PIP). PIP can help with the extra living costs for people who have both a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability and difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around because of your condition.

PIP payments are split into two elements, a daily living part and a mobility part. How much is awarded will depend on how severely the claimant is affected by their condition(s).

The daily living part will pay either £60.00 or £89.60 per week. Mobility payments will pay either £23.70 or £62.55.

To be eligible for PIP, claimants will need to be aged between 16 and state pension age. Additionally, they’ll need to have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability which results in difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around and this is expected to last for at least 12 months from when it started.

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