In England, each prescription item costs £9.15. From April 1st 2021, this price will rise to £9.35. You may be eligible for free prescriptions depending on your age or circumstances. If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you don't have to pay for your prescriptions.
If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you automatically get free prescriptions. In England, children, 16–18 year-olds in full-time education, and people over 60 are entitled to free prescriptions.
You are also eligible for free prescriptions in England if:
Additionally, if you're on a low income, you may be eligible for free prescriptions and a prescription charge may not apply.
You can find out if you need to pay for prescriptions on the NHS website, or by calling their helpline on 0300 330 1349.
In most circumstances, you will need to get an exemption certificate as evidence that you don't need to pay for your prescriptions. For maternity or medical exemptions, you can get a form from your doctor, midwife or health visitor. If you are entitled to free prescriptions because you're unemployed or on a low income, you should check whether you need to apply for a certificate. Exemption certificates are valid for a limited period of time – up to 5 years for medical exemptions, and 1 year for maternity exemptions. You can check whether your certificate is still valid on the NHS website.
Contraception is almost always free on the NHS, regardless of your age. However, contraceptives are occasionally prescribed for other purposes, such as managing acne. In these circumstances, you will have to pay for your prescription.
Generally, you only have to pay one charge for each item on your prescription, but there are exceptions. Some products count as two items, even if they come in the same box, so you have to pay twice for them. For example some 'duo' products that contain a cream and a tablet will be charged as two items, and Hormone Replacement Therapy (also known as HRT) is sometimes classed as two medicines, even though it comes as one tablet. This means you will have to pay twice for it. If you're unsure about how much your medicine will cost, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Sometimes, you may need two packs of the same medicine to get the correct dosage. For example, if you need to take 15mg, you may be prescribed 10mg and 5mg. If they are on the same prescription and are both the same form – for example, both are tablets – you'll only have to pay once.
If you’re not exempt from paying, NHS prescriptions in England currently cost £9.35 per item. Not all medications cost though - there are some exceptions like contraception, and medicines prescribed for hospital inpatients. Of course, the more medications you are on, the higher the cost, but there are ways to help you manage these costs, like the NHS prescription prepayment certificate.
If you have several prescriptions, it may work out cheaper for you to buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). A 3 month PPC costs £29.65, a 12 month PPC costs £105.90. From April 1st 2021, a 3 month PPC will cost £30.25, and a 12 month PPC will cost £108.10.
A 12 month PPC can save you over £110 a year if you take two items a month, over £215 a year if you take three items a month, and over £325 a year if you take four items a month.
Applying for an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate is simple, and it can be active from the same day you buy it - meaning you can use your certificate right away. You can pay in one go, or across several months. For example, the 12 month certificate can be paid for in 10 monthly instalments. There’s no limit on the amount of NHS prescriptions you can pay for with your prepayment certificate, as long as they’re all yours. Your Prescription Prepayment Certificate will be delivered via an email.
You can buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate on the NHS website. You'll need your NHS number and your payment details to complete the form.
If you have a private prescription, the cost will depend on what you have been prescribed. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you how much you will be charged.
Learn more about the prices and options for online prescriptions.