Trade for prosperity

Check before you tick

Are you signing for free prescriptions? The NHS England and NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) ‘Check Before You Tick’ campaign helps people to understand their entitlement for free prescriptions

The NHS ‘Check Before You Tick’ campaign, launched in September 2018, was created to encourage patients to check whether they are entitled to free prescriptions before claiming them to help reduce the £256 million cost per year to the NHS when people incorrectly claim them for free.

As part of the NHS ‘Check before you tick’ campaign, materials and guidance have been developed to raise awareness of the online eligibility checker and to help pharmacists support their patients to claim correctly.

Anyone incorrectly claiming a free prescription risks a penalty charge of up to £100 from the NHSBSA which carries out prescription checks each month.

Check your entitlement

Patients are entitled to free prescriptions if they are under 16 years old or 16, 17 or 18 and in full time education, or over 60. Certain illnesses can also exempt a patient from prescription charges as well as being pregnant or having a baby under one year.

Certain benefits, but not all, qualify people for free prescriptions, so it’s important that patients check their entitlement, and your pharmacist should support you with this and ask to see up-to-date proof of eligibility.

Pregnant women and new mothers, although eligible to claim free prescriptions, may not always realise they need a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate. Without a valid certificate, they too could receive a penalty charge.

For individuals who experience financial difficulties but are not eligible for free prescriptions, there are other means of support available to them and your pharmacist should help advise, such as prepayment certificates and the NHS low income scheme.

The online eligibility checker can be accessed on the NHS website at:

If you need support, ask someone you trust to help you go online and get the information you need. This could be a family member, partner, friend or support worker.

Further information about NHS help with health costs can be found at

What to do at the pharmacy

✚ If you have an exemption certificate or prescription prepayment certificate, always check the date to see if you can still use it.

✚ If you claim for a benefit, always check whether that benefit means you can get free prescriptions.

If you are not allowed free prescriptions

✚ If you are not allowed free prescriptions, don’t claim.

✚ If your exemption certificate or prepayment certificate is out of date, don’t claim. Pharmacy staff will tell you how much you need to pay.

✚ If you claim free prescriptions that you’re not allowed, you might have to pay £100 as well as the cost of your prescription.

What to do if you’re unsure

✚ If you are not sure whether you are allowed free prescriptions, you should pay and ask the pharmacy staff for an NHS receipt. This is also called an FP57 form.

✚ If you are waiting to find out whether you’re allowed free prescriptions, you should also pay.

✚ If you find out later that you are allowed free prescriptions and have proof, you can get your money back. The NHS receipt will tell you what to do.

✚ If you are unsure about what to do, ask the pharmacy staff to help you. 

If you are allowed free prescriptions

✚ Make sure you tick the right box on the back of the prescription.

✚ If someone else collects the prescription for you, make sure they know which box to tick.

✚ If pharmacy staff ask for proof that you don’t have to pay, you can show your:

➣ Benefit entitlement or award letter

➣ Exemption certificate


These medications are free for everyone:

✚ Prescribed contraceptives

✚ Medication to treat a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

✚ Any medicines given at an NHS hospital


✚ Pregnant women and those who have given birth in the last 12 months are entitled to free pre­scriptions and dental treatment.

✚ Many women do not realise that a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate is needed to claim free prescriptions.

✚ By claiming free prescriptions without this certificate, they risk a penalty charge of up to £100.

✚ Women can apply for a Maternity Exemption Certificate to get free prescriptions with help from a GP, midwife or health visitor.

✚ If the applicant has an email address, they will be able to get a digital copy of the certificate within 24 hours of applying, otherwise, they will get a paper certificate in the post.

✚ For more information about Maternity Exemption Certificates, visit:

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