Thousands are entitled to free NHS prescriptions without even realizing it – see criteria

Almost a billion medicines were distributed free of charge by the NHS last year, but many Brits could still miss out on free prescriptions because they don’t know they meet the criteria.

NHS prescriptions
Almost 90 percent of the medicines distributed by pharmacists are dispensed free of charge

Getting a medical diagnosis and prescription can sometimes feel like two pieces of bad news, as repeated prescriptions take a permanent toll on your finances. In a cost-of-living crisis, reducing these costs can be critical to both your mental and physical health.

Almost a billion medicines were dispensed free of charge by the NHS last year, with almost 90 per cent of all prescriptions being dispensed free of charge.

Luckily, people with conditions like cancer, diabetes or epilepsy are entitled to free medicines, but it’s not just the long-term sick who are entitled to them. In fact, millions of Brits are entitled to free prescriptions but may not know they meet qualifying criteria – which vary by age, income and work status.

Who gets free prescriptions for the NHS?

Many Brits don’t realize they are entitled to free prescriptions.


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In Scotland and Wales, all prescriptions are completely free.

Currently in England, anyone over 60 and under 16 can get an unlimited number of prescription items free of charge.

The other groups that benefit from free recipes are:

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Universal Credit beneficiaries are not all eligible for free prescriptions, but those who earn less than a certain amount are eligible.

Applicants with £435 or less per month, or £935 if they are responsible for a child, should be eligible for free prescriptions.

If you receive one of these benefits, your partner and any dependent young people under the age of 20 are also entitled to free NHS prescriptions.

You can check your eligibility for free prescriptions using the NHS’s criteria checker.

What if I can’t afford my prescription?

The NHS offers a variety of options for those with prohibitively expensive prescriptions, as the fixed cost of £9.35 for each item dispensed can quickly add up.

Described as a ‘seasonal pass’ for NHS medicines, anyone can get an unlimited number of prescribed items for a fixed three-monthly or annual fee.

The three-month certificate costs £30.25, while the 12-month plan costs £108.10. That said, both plans become inexpensive if you’re only paying for one or two items a month.

The health service says this season pass can save people hundreds over the course of a year, describing the cost savings as:

  • Two items per month – save £116.30 with a 12 month PPC
  • Three Articles per Month – Save £228.50 with a 12 month PPC
  • Four Articles per Month – Save £340.70 with a 12 month PPC

The Prepayment Certificates can be purchased online and take effect on the date of purchase. You can find out more on their website.

Will free prescriptions be abolished?

Those over 60 will want to make use of their free prescriptions as the government opened a consultation on their abolition in December 2021. Under government proposals, the Department of Health and Social Care would raise the exemption age to 66 to match the state pension age.

A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “The vast majority – around 89 per cent – of community prescription items in England are free and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over the age of 60 or certain have diseases.

“The maximum age exemption has not changed since 1995, which is why we discussed re-establishing the link to the statutory retirement age.

“No decision has been made yet – we are carefully reviewing the responses and will respond in due course.”

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