Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions
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NHS prescription charges were frozen at £9.35 per prescription this year, but a recent survey by the National Pharmacy Association showed this is too expensive for many. It showed nearly nine in 10 chemists in England have patients who often go without prescription medicines because they cannot afford the NHS charge. However, millions of people are entitled to help in the form of free prescriptions.
As the cost of living crisis continues to make life miserable for many, chemists have confirmed some people are choosing to go without their prescriptions so they can afford to eat.
Although costs were frozen this year because of the cost of living crisis, people are still finding it difficult to find the money.
At the same time, the Government is still consulting on increasing the age people get free prescriptions to the current state pension age which is 66-years-old for both men and women.
This is despite the fact that NHS prescriptions are free for everyone of all ages in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
James O’Loan, pharmacist and CEO at Chemist4U said the cost of prescriptions is a worry for many.
His concerns were backed up by Nick Kaye, the National Pharmacy Association vice chair, who said prescriptions charges should be scrapped entirely so no one has to decide whether they can afford treatment.
He said: “People should not be denied access to prescription medicines on the basis of their ability to pay.
“We would like to see the prescription levy reformed or scrapped altogether, to remove this barrier to treatment.”
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However, a spokesperson for the DHSC said nearly 90 percent of the English population receive free NHS prescriptions alread.
They said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the rising cost of living and we are taking action to support households, including freezing prescription charges for the first time in 12 years.
“Thanks to our extensive arrangements to help people afford NHS prescription charges, 89 percent of prescriptions in England are already provided free of charge.”
People who suffer from certain health conditions like cancer and epilepsy should automatically be sent a medical exemption certificate through the post, but others on certain benefits could also qualify for free prescriptions depending on their income.
People should be sent a medical exemption card if they have:
- cancer, including the effects of cancer or the effects of current or previous cancer treatment
- a permanent fistula (for example, a laryngostomy, colostomy, ileostomy or some renal dialysis fistulas) requiring continuous surgical dressing or 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 (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
- epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
- a continuing physical disability that means you cannot go out without the help of another person (temporary disabilities do not count, even if they last for several months)
People should also qualify for free prescriptions if they are under 16, in full time education, have a war pension exemption certificate or receive means-tested benefits.
Anyone who doesn’t qualify for free prescriptions should consider investing in a Pre Payment Certificate (PPC)).
A PPC enables people to purchase as many NHS prescriptions as they need throughout the year for £108.10 – Britons who rely on two prescriptions a month could save over £100.
To find out more about PPC, people should go to the NHS website.
The 15 groups of people who qualify for free NHS prescriptions:
- Under 16s
- Aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education
- Pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
- Registered disabled and are unable to go out
- Have a war pension exemption certificate
- An NHS inpatient
- In receipt of Income Support
- In receipt of income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- In receipt of income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- In receipt of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- In receipt of Universal Credit and your earnings during your last assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less if your UC includes an element for a child or you have limited capability for work
- The owner of a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- In receipt of a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).
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