Some people automatically get free prescriptions. Certain people can get an exemption certificate to obtain free prescriptions. Also, anyone needing regular prescriptions may save money by buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate.
Note: this leaflet only applies to England because prescriptions are free to all in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
If you are entitled to free prescriptions, complete the declaration on the back of the prescription and sign it. You may be asked for proof that you are exempt.
You need to apply for a Maternity Exemption Card, using form FW8. The form is available from doctors, nurses, midwives and health visitors. You are required to complete the form and your doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor will sign the form to confirm the information given by you is correct.
The card will last until 12 months after the expected date of the birth (you can apply for an extension if the baby is born late). If you have a Maternity Exemption Card all your prescriptions are free, whatever the medication is for.
Although there are many conditions requiring regular medication, only the following qualify for an exemption certificate:
If you have one of the specified conditions ask for an application form, FP92A, from your doctor's surgery. You need to fill it in and your doctor (or an authorised member of the practice staff) will sign to confirm the information you've given is correct. You will then be sent a Medical Exemption Certificate which is valid for five years.
If you have a Medical Exemption Certificate all your prescriptions are free, whatever the medication is for.
Some people on a low income may qualify for help with prescription charges. Your entitlement to help is based on your circumstances, such as your level of income, savings, etc. You will have to fill in an HC1 form 'Claim for Help with Health Costs' giving various details of your circumstances and then send it off in the prepaid envelope provided.
If you qualify for help, you will be sent an HC2 Certificate for full help, or an HC3 Certificate for partial help, which you will need to produce when paying for your prescription. The certificate will tell you whom it covers and how long it lasts. If your circumstances change for the better, you can continue using the certificate until it expires. If your circumstances change for the worse during the period of the certificate, you should make another claim. If your circumstances will remain unchanged after the time period, then make a new claim before the current certificate expires.
See the NHS Business Services Authority Help with Health Costs website for details on how to get the HC1 claim form.
If you are on a low income, but have not yet got your exemption certificate, then get a receipt form from the pharmacist when your prescription is dispensed. Note that you cannot get one later. When you get your exemption certificate, send the receipt form to the address on the form to get a refund.
If you do not qualify for exemption you may be able to reduce the cost of your prescriptions by buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate ('season ticket'). This certificate will cover the cost of all your prescriptions during a particular period.
For example, if you pay for more than 3 prescription items in 3 months, or more than 13 items in 12 months, you could save money by buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate.The charge for a single prescription item is £7.85 (April 2013).
A Prescription Prepayment Certificate costs £29.10 for 3 months and £104.00 for 12 months.
You can apply for a Prescription Prepayment Certificate:
Or by completing form FP95 available from:
If you pay a prescription charge whilst waiting for a Prescription Prepayment Certificate to be issued, you can get a refund. To do this you must get a receipt form from the pharmacist (FP57). You must get the receipt form when you pay for your prescription; you cannot get one later. Fill the receipt form in and send it off to claim the refund.
You have to apply for a refund within three months of paying the prescription charge.