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Unsure whether you should actually be charged for your pharmacy prescriptions? Here is a guide to who does and doesn’t have to pay…

If you’re based in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales you’ll know no one has to pay a prescription charge. However, residents who live in England and who also have an English GP are charged a set amount of £9.35 per prescription at the time of writing, unless they’re exempt.

Your local pharmacy can offer advice if you feel you shouldn’t be paying for prescriptions, however, fraudulently claiming when you’re not in fact eligible can land you in trouble – and include Penalty Charge Notices to pay.

While some pharmacies may have a Real Time Exemption Checking system in place, it’s always better to play it safe and pay if you don’t have any form of exemption certificate to hand.

Want a clearer guide to find out who in England is in fact exempt from paying for their prescriptions? We’ve broken it down to make things much easier to read…

MATERNITY

If you’re currently pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months then you will also be exempt from paying. This includes women who’ve suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or have terminated their pregnancy. You’ll need to have a valid Maternity Exemption (MATEX) certificate with you when picking up your medicine, which you can have as either on paper or digitally to show your pharmacy. Don’t leave home without it: your pharmacy will charge you if you don’t bring the certificate along.

In 2019 the cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community in England was £9.08 billion

EDUCATION

If you’re aged 16, 17 or 18 and can prove you’re in full-time education from an establishment such as a school, college, or university or similar – including home tutoring – then you also don’t have to pay for prescriptions. Apprenticeships are not eligible – if in doubt ask your local pharmacy for guidance.

One thousand and forty six million prescription items were dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in 2019/20. Source: nhsbsa.nhs.uk

MEDICAL EXEMPTIONS

If you suffer from certain medical conditions including cancer and diabetes and/or have a physical disability, you may also be exempt from charges. You’ll need to have a valid medical exemption certificate to prove you don’t have to pay, and again, you’ll need to remember to bring it along to the pharmacy with you when collecting any medicine.

Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

You are also eligible for free prescriptions if you receive income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) or are again included in an award for JSA (again a partner or dependent under the age of 20). Make sure you take your JSA award notice with you when picking up your prescriptions for proof at your local pharmacy.

HC2 Full Help Certificate

If you have a low income be sure to apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme, which, if successful, will see you awarded an HC2 Full Help certificate, resulting in free prescriptions. It’s not just for you, either: a partner named on a HC2 certificate and any dependent children under 19 and in full-time education should also be entitled to free prescriptions while the certificate is valid.

Tax Credit Exemption Certificate

If you have been sent a Tax Credit Exemption Certificate, then you will also not be required to pay for your pharmacy prescriptions. This covers the patient, their partner and any dependent children included in their tax credit claim. In order to be eligible for this certificate your annual family income used to calculate Tax Credits should be £15,276 or less and you should also receive either Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit paid together, or Working Tax Credit including a disability or severe disability element.

Ministry of Defence

If you receive either the War Pension Scheme or receive Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments – and are under the age of 60 – you can request a war pension exemption certificate from Veterans UK. This certificate then entitles you to free NHS prescriptions for your accepted disability.

INCOME SUPPORT

If you receive or are included in an award of someone receiving Income Support, then you will be eligible for free prescriptions. This includes partners (including civil partners) or any dependents or children under the age of 20. You’ll need to prove this of course, showing your local pharmacy an Income Support award notice or letter.

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