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Understanding Prescription Charges

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

In England, most adults are required to pay for their prescriptions.

This doesn’t however apply to everyone in the UK, so to help you find out what is required of you, and what help you can get if you are struggling with paying for your prescriptions, we have answered some of the most common questions about prescription charges.

NHS Prescription Payment Process

How much is a prescription?

At the time of writing, prescriptions cost £9.15 but will be going up to £9.35 on 1st April 2021.

How do I pay for my prescriptions?

The way you pay for your prescriptions depends on the pharmacy or dispensary providing it. You may be able to pay for your prescriptions online, over the phone or in person. You will generally only pay for your prescriptions once it has been dispensed.

Can I pay for my prescriptions on the Healthera App?

Last year we introduced Healthera Pay which means that patients can pay for their prescriptions securely on the app using their credit or debit card, when they order from a pharmacy that has enabled this feature.

In other cases, the pharmacies will confirm which payment methods they would like to use. This can include paying over the phone or in person.

Do you pay per item on a prescription?

Yes. The prescription charge is for each item within a prescription; i.e. each drug or medical appliance. There are some cases where there needs to be more than one item in order to make up a single dose, in which case you will be charged for the price of one. If you’re not sure, you can ask your doctor or a pharmacist.

Why do we pay for prescriptions?

Paid prescriptions raise millions for the NHS. According to previous enquiries into what would happen if all prescriptions were free, the NHS could have a loss in income of up to £750m per year.

Prescription Charge Exemptions

Will I have to pay for my prescriptions?

There are some circumstances where you are automatically exempt from paying for prescriptions. Firstly, if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you automatically get free prescriptions. In England, if you are a child, in full-time education between the ages of 16 and 18, or over 60, you are also entitled to free prescriptions automatically.

Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

You can check on the NHS website to find out if you have an NHS exemption and are therefore not required to pay for your prescriptions. Some of the ways you may be entitled to free prescriptions in England is if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • You have some ongoing medical conditions that fall under the exemption eligibility
  • You receive a war pension (and are under 60)

Do I need an exemption certificate?

Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or a permanent fistula, makes you eligible for free prescriptions but you need a medical exemption certificate.

The medical exemption certificate is available for 5 years, or until your 60th birthday if that happens first, and you should show it when you collect your prescription.

How do I get a medical exemption certificate?

If you are eligible for an exemption certificate, you can get an application form from your doctor if you haven’t already. Once the NHS receives your application, you should receive your certificate within 10 working days.

Prescription Payment Support

Can I get help with NHS prescription costs?

If you are struggling with paying for your prescriptions, but aren’t eligible for an exemption, you may be entitled to the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS) or an NHS tax credit exemption certificate. You are entitled to LIS if your savings, investments or property don’t exceed the capital limit – £16,000 for everyone excluding those that live in care homes permanently for whom it is £23,250.

There is also the Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) that is available to everyone and covers all NHS prescriptions. With a PPC, you can get as many prescriptions as you need at a set price.

Can I have my prescriptions prepaid?

With the Prescription Prepayment Certificate, your prescriptions will be paid for in advance for as long as your certificate is valid, and you keep up with the payments.

How do I get a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC)?

You can either call 0300 330 1341 or buy a PPC online. The PPC starts from the day you purchase it, or the day you request for it to start.

Is my PPC card valid if I order prescriptions on the Healthera App?

Yes, any form of prescription payment exemption, including prepaid prescriptions, exemptions due to location, etc. are valid on the Healthera App. In your profile, you can state that you are exempt, and why.

How do I renew my NHS prescription prepayment certificate?

A PPC is valid for 3 or 12 months, depending on the type you choose. They are generally auto renewed on your behalf if you are paying by direct debit, or you can reapply for the NHS prescription prepayment card.

If you have any other questions about your prescriptions, you can ask your pharmacist via the My Pharmacy tab in the Healthera tab.


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