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Prescription costs and exemptions

How much is a prescription?

For the most up-to-date information on prescription charges, visit the NHS website. The current cost in England is £9.35 per prescription item. The cost of prescriptions usually increases slightly every April. 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. For more information about who can get free prescriptions in England, visit the NHS website.

Who gets free prescriptions?

If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you automatically get free prescriptions. In England, people under 16, people aged 16–18 in full-time education, and people over 60 are entitled to free prescriptions.

You are also eligible for prescription charge exemptions in England if:

  • you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • you have certain ongoing medical conditions
  • you hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability.

Additionally, if you're on a low income, you may be eligible for free prescriptions. For example, if you or your partner are receiving certain benefits or if you're entitled to or named on a valid NHS certificate for full or partial help with health costs. You may also get free prescriptions if you're entitled to or named on a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate. If you get Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit with a disability element (or both) and your income falls below the threshold, you may qualify.

You can find out if you need to pay for prescriptions on the NHS website, or by calling their helpline on 0300 330 1349.

NHS prescription charge exemption certificate or card

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 five years for medical exemptions, and one year for maternity exemptions. You can check whether your certificate is still valid on the NHS website.

Contraception

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.

Multiple charge items

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.

Managing the cost of prescriptions with an NHS prescription prepayment certificate (PPC)

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.

How to apply for an NHS prescription prepayment certificate

Applying for an NHS prescription prepayment certificate is simple, and it can be activated 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 for you, not prescribed to anybody else. Your prescription prepayment certificate will be delivered via 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.

Private prescriptions

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.

Online prescriptions

Learn more about our online prescription service and how it could benefit you.

Prescription delivery service

Sign up to our service via our app or website and request the items you need. Once your GP has approved your prescription, we'll deliver it to your door at no extra cost.

Text notifications

We can send you a text message when your prescription is ready to collect, so you're not waiting around for it.

24/7 prescription pick up

We've launched 24/7 collection machines at selected pharmacies, so you can pick up your prescription at a time that suits you.

Nominating a pharmacy

To have your prescription sent straight from your doctor to your pharmacy, you need to 'nominate' one. Learn more about what it means, and how to nominate a pharmacy.

Information about NHS prescriptions

Find out more about prescriptions, including how we work with the NHS, and how we make sure you get your medication on time. You can also learn about what to do if you have concerns about side effects of your prescription.

Online prescriptions

Learn more about our online prescription service, where it's available and how it could benefit you.