Prescription costs

In England, each prescription item costs £9. 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.

Do I have to pay for my 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:

  • you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • you have certain ongoing medical conditions
  • you are under 60 and receive a war pension

Additionally, if you're on a low income, you may be eligible for free prescriptions.

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

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

If you have several prescriptions, it may work out cheaper for you to buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). A 3 month PPC costs £29.10, a 12 month PPC costs £104.

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.

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.