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Cost of living: Why you should check if you’re eligible for free prescriptions

Are you eligible for free prescriptions? Their price has been frozen but some people don’t need to pay at all.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid recently announced a price freeze for prescriptions in England for the first time in 12 years. 

Usually, the cost of prescriptions increases in line with inflation, but Javid put the freeze in place supposedly to help people to combat the cost of living crisis and to “put money back into people’s pockets”.

However, as campaigners and social media users have rightly pointed out, freezing a cost is not the same as repaying or reducing a cost, and won’t exactly help to increase how much money people have in their bank accounts.

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Plus, many groups of people impacted most by the cost of living crisis are already eligible for free NHS prescriptions, while people living in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are also already entitled to free prescriptions.

Considering most prescriptions are currently priced at £9.35 per item, it is worth checking to see if you or someone you care about could actually be getting money back into their pockets.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the groups of people who can get prescriptions for free.

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If you’re receiving income support or universal credit

Considering that there is growing health inequality between those on higher and lower incomes, it’s vital that prescriptions remain free for people currently receiving income support.

If you or your partner are currently receiving income support, income-related employment and support allowance, or income-based jobseeker’s allowance, you should not have to pay for your prescriptions. You are also entitled to free prescriptions if you’re a recipient of guarantee pension credit, the part of pension credit available for people on low incomes.

People under the age of 20 and dependent on someone who is receiving one of the above forms of support are also able to access prescriptions without charge.

People receiving universal credit are eligible for free prescriptions, if you and your partner currently do not have any earnings. This is also the case if your combined earnings total £435 or less per month, or £935 if your universal credit amount includes a child amount or if you or your partner have limited capability to work.

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If you are on a low income

People living on low incomes are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis, as prices continue to rise rapidly. Help with prescription prices will remain a lifeline for many.

Anyone earning less than £16,000 is eligible for help with paying for prescriptions, dependent on how much you have in savings and investments. This support also extends to your partners and dependent children.

For people living permanently in a care home, this limit extends to £23,250. 

The level of support you can receive in paying for prescriptions depends on your situation, and you can receive either full help in paying fees, or partial help.

You can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme online.

Over 60s and under 18s 

Another group profoundly affected by the cost of living crisis is the older generation, who Labour warns is paying more than twice as much in energy bills than younger people.

Anyone over the age of 60 can access their prescriptions for free. Anyone in this age group can also get free NHS sight tests. 

Children aged 16 and below are also entitled to free prescriptions, as are 16 to 18-year-olds who are currently in full-time education.

Exemption certificates

You can get an NHS exemption certificate, entitling you to free prescriptions, if you are the recipient of child tax credits or working tax credits.

Anyone who is pregnant or has given birth within the past year is also entitled to free prescriptions with an NHS exemption certificate.

This is also true for people with specified medical conditions, such as physical disabilities that prevent them from leaving the home, cancer, and epilepsy that requires anticonvulsive therapy.

If you’re unsure whether you may be exempt from paying for your prescriptions, speak to your pharmacist or GP, or complete the NHS eligibility checker.

Ask your doctor for a FP92A form to complete if you think you’re eligible for free prescriptions but currently are paying for them.

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