Who can claim free NHS prescriptions?

If you get regular NHS prescriptions, you’ll know exactly how expensive paying for them can get. But figuring out whether you’re eligible for free prescriptions or not can be quite confusing! Don’t worry, though, that’s exactly what we’re here for. We’ll help you find your way through the NHS prescription jungle.

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What is the NHS prescription charge?

First of all, it’s important to know that all NHS prescriptions are free in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. This means, that only people living in England are currently paying for their prescriptions. Currently, the standard cost for an NHS prescription is £9.35 per item.

So, when can you actually get free NHS prescriptions in England?

There are lots of different circumstances when you might be eligible for free prescriptions. But let’s take a look!

Prescriptions that are always free

If you’re an in-patient in an NHS hospital, all your prescriptions will be free for the duration of your hospital stay. The same goes for any contraception and contraceptive devices that you get on an NHS prescription.


You won’t have to pay for your NHS prescriptions if you are

  • aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education
  • under 16
  • aged 60 or over

Although most electronic prescriptions have your date of birth on them, it’s always a good idea to bring your ID to the pharmacy when you go pick up your stuff. We know how easy it is to forget about that, though. That’s why, if you’re registered with us, you won’t have to show us your ID every time you place an order. We’ll only ask you once to upload it and that’s it!

If you’re between 16 and 18 and in full-time education, you’ll probably be asked to provide evidence of your education. This is most likely going to be something like your student ID.


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There are many circumstances around benefits and income under which you’ll be able to claim free NHS prescriptions. If you are currently receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credits you are entitled to the following:

  • money for glasses and contact lenses
  • free NHS eye tests
  • free NHS prescriptions
  • free NHS dental treatment
  • free NHS wigs & fabric supports
  • reimbursement for travelling to your medical appointments

You will also be eligible for free NHS prescriptions if you’re receiving Universal Credit and meet the necessary criteria.

Tax credit

If your annual family income is £15,276 or less and you’re currently receiving

  • Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit paid together
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit including a disability element

you are eligible for an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.

If you have a valid HC2 certificate, you’re also able to apply for free NHS prescriptions as part of the NHS low-income scheme.

Pregnancy & maternity

If you’re currently pregnant or have had a baby in the past year, you’re entitled to free NHS prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment. It’s important that you don’t just start claiming free prescriptions after you’ve found out that you’re pregnant, though! You will have to apply for a maternity exemption certificate, first. When can you do this? As soon as your midwife or doctor have officially confirmed your pregnancy. And, depending on when you’ve applied, the certificate will be valid for 12 months from the due date or the birth of your baby.

If you’ve paid for one or more prescriptions while you were waiting for your maternity exemption certificate, you’ll be able to claim a refund once you’ve received it. Just make sure you get an FP57 form when paying and you can bring it back once you’ve got your certificate. Please be aware that your FP57 needs to be given when your items are dispensed so make sure you let us know if you need this!

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Medical conditions & disability

If you’re living with a medical condition you might be eligible for free NHS prescriptions. It’s important that you don’t just start claiming, however! You’ll need to get a valid medical exemption certificate first. Once you’ve got that, you can use it for 5 years or until your 60th birthday when prescriptions will become free for you.

Be aware that your medical exemption certificate is only valid for NHS prescriptions and you’ll have to have it with you every time you pick up your items at your local pharmacy. If you’re registered with us, you won’t have to show us your certificate every time you place an order. We’ll only ask you once while it's valid, promise!

So which medical conditions qualify for free NHS prescriptions? If you’re living with one of the following, you can claim you are able to apply for medical exemption certificate:

  • Physical disability which means you rely on another person to leave the house
  • Diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Hypoadrenalism (like Addison’s Disease) that requires substitution therapy
  • Cancer
  • Myxoedema
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Permanent fistula (like a stoma) that needs continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • Diabetes mellitus unless your only treatment is a change of your diet
  • Epilepsy that requires continuous anticonvulsive therapy

To apply for a medical exemption certificate, speak to your GP. If you’re eligible, they will talk you through everything and give you an application form to fill out.

War pension & Armed Forces

If you’re under 60 and have been awarded a war pension, you are able to apply for a war pension exemption certificate. This means that you can claim free NHS prescriptions for any prescription that relates to the disability you got your pension awarded for. The certificate also includes free NHS wigs and fabric supports.

Here’s how you can check whether you’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions

If you want to check, whether you’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions, you can do that here. If you’re still unsure afterwards, you can give our lovely Customer Care team a call on 020 3987 7560; they’ll be more than happy to help you out with any questions you have!

What if you don’t qualify for free NHS prescriptions? If that’s the case, you might be able to save money on your monthly prescription costs with an NHS prepayment certificate. Find more information on prepayment certificates here.

Other helpful contacts

Here are some other helpful contacts if you have any further questions about your NHS prescriptions costs.

  • NHS Help with Health Costs helpline: 0300 330 1343
  • Prescription services helpline: 0300 330 1349
  • Queries about medical exemption certificates: 0300 330 1341
  • Queries about prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs): 0300 330 1341
  • Queries about tax credit certificates: 0300 330 1347
  • Call 0300 123 0849 to order a paper copy of the HC12, HC5 and HC1 (SC) forms