Some groups of people can apply for exemption certificates that entitle them to free NHS prescriptions.
Check if you are exempt from paying NHS prescription costs:
What are the types of exemption certificates you can apply for?
Maternity Exemption Certificates
If you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, then you can apply for a maternity exemption certificate. You can apply by speaking to your doctor, midwife, or health visitor.
Tax Credit Exemption Certificates
If the family income used to work out your tax credits is £15,276 or less and you receive either:
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit paid together, or
- Working Tax Credit including a disability element
You do not have to apply for this exemption certificate. If you meet the conditions, HM Revenue and Customs will inform the NHS and you will be automatically sent an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
Certificates are valid for seven months and if you’re still entitled, you’ll be sent a new certificate before your current one expires.
Medical Exemption Certificates
People with certain medical conditions can apply for a medical exemption certificate. The certificate means that all medications that you get on prescription will then be free of charge, whatever they are for. If you're entitled to a certificate because of your medical condition, your doctor will give you an application form but you can also ask them to check.
War Pension Exemption Certificate
If you receive a war pension and you are under the age of 60, then you can apply for a war pension exemption certificate. This certificate will entitle you to free prescriptions that are only for your accepted disability. To apply for the certificate, you need to call the Veterans UK helpline on 0808 191 4218.
Section 117 Aftercare
If you have been in hospital under section 3, 37, 45A, 47 or 48 of the Mental Health Act 1983, you are entitled to section 117 aftercare. Section 117 means that you will get free aftercare when you leave the hospital.
You will not automatically be given free prescriptions. You will need to speak to the person overseeing your care package. They should be able to help you claim free prescriptions for any medication that is part of your section 117 aftercare.
NHS Low Income Scheme
If you are on a low income the NHS Low Income Scheme can help you to pay for your prescription charges.
The amount of help you’re entitled to depends on your household income and outgoings. Any help you’re entitled to is also available to your partner, if you have one.
You can't get help if you or your partner (or both) have more than:
- £16,000 in savings, investments or property (not including the place where you live)
- £23,250 in savings, investments or property if you live permanently in a care home.
Any help you're entitled to is also available to your partner and any dependent young people.
Depending on your circumstances, you can receive full help (HC2 certificate) or partial help (HC3 certificate).
Find out more information from the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/help-with-health-costs/nhs-low-income-scheme-lis/
To request an HC1 form by telephone, call: 0300 123 0849.
The rules about Universal Credit can be complicated. If you claim Universal Credit, your entitlement to free NHS prescriptions depends on your earnings for the most recent assessment period. The "most recent assessment period" means the assessment period that ended immediately before the date you claim free NHS prescriptions. It runs for one calendar month.
You are entitled if your earnings during that period were:
- £435 or less, or
- £935 or less if your Universal Credit includes an element for either:
- A child
- Limited capability for work.
If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, the earnings limit applies to the joint income of you and your partner.
Not all prescription forms have a tick box on the back for Universal Credit. If that's the case, you should tick the box for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance instead.
You should take your Universal Credit award notice to prove your entitlement.
If you are not sure if you meet the eligibility criteria, then you should pay for your prescription. You can claim a refund once you're able to confirm your entitlement.
You need to:
- Make sure you ask for and keep receipts. If you pay for a prescription, you must get a receipt and refund form (FP57) at the time you pay, as you won't be able to get one later.
- Apply for a refund within three months of paying the prescription charge.
If you paid for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) and become exempt from paying for prescriptions, you may be able to claim some of all of the money back for your PPC. However, this does not apply to the Hormone Replacement Therapy prescription prepayment certificate (HRT PPC).
Remember: Apply for a new PPC before it runs out. Otherwise, you'll have to pay full prescription charges once it expires.
IMPORTANT: It is your responsibility to check your entitlement for free prescriptions. If you claim free prescriptions that you are not entitled to you could be asked to pay a penalty charge of up to £100.
If your medical exemption certificate expires, you can apply to renew it if you still meet the criteria. However, if you continue to use it after the expiry date you could be fined up to £100.