While living costs remain high, claiming financial support – if eligible – is more important than ever. Certain Britons can knock hundreds of pounds off medication costs annually by making the most of the NHS’ free prescription schemes.
People who are eligible for free prescriptions can also benefit from free over-the-counter medication too in certain pharmacies with the NHS’ Minor Ailment Scheme, so it could pay for people to know the qualifying criteria.
The price of an NHS prescription increased this year to £9.65 per item, and for those who need several items frequently, this can mount up.
Age, benefits, or a valid exemption certificate are all important factors that determine whether someone can claim medication for free, and here’s the full list of groups.
Who is eligible for free NHS prescriptions?
While most NHS treatment is free, there are certain services that people have to pay for, such as dentist appointments, prescriptions, and eyesight tests to name a few.
However, the groups that can get these services for free include those who:
- Are under 16
- Are aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education
- Are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
- Are registered disabled and are unable to go out
- Have a war pension exemption certificate
- Are an NHS inpatient
- Receive Income Support
- Receive Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Receive Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Receive Universal Credit (UC) and their earnings during their last assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less if their UC includes an element for a child or they have limited capability for work
- Own a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- Have a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).
- Have certain illnesses including cancer and epilepsy
- Are aged 60 or over.
For further clarification on eligibility, people can use the NHS tool that allows them to check – in three minutes – more accurately.
Those eligible for a free prescription could also pick up over-the-counter medicine for free, such as treatment for minor and common illnesses. This is available through the NHS Minor Ailment Scheme.
What is the NHS Minor Ailment Scheme
Certain pharmacies, including some Boots stores, offer a Minor Ailment Scheme, which enables them to provide people who don’t pay for prescriptions with medicines for minor illnesses for free on the NHS.
The scheme is currently widely available across Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but only in selected pharmacies across England.
The medicines covered by the scheme can also differ depending on where the person lives, so people are suggested to talk to their local pharmacy directly to find out what they offer.
To claim free medicine, people may need to bring proof that they don’t normally have to pay prescription charges.
However, it’s important for people to be sure their circumstances permit them to claim to avoid facing a steep penalty.
Alison O’Brien, head of loss recovery services, from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), a body that helps manage the NHS’ spend, said: “The NHSBSA checks claims randomly and retrospectively in order to appropriately recover funds and returns them to NHS services.
“We encourage all patients to check their entitlement before claiming free prescriptions and our online tool provides support to understand if they are eligible.”