A guide to NHS prescription costs

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When it comes to filling prescriptions, it can be difficult to know if you’re entitled to it for free or if you have to pay. To help cut through the confusion, Evergreen Life has put together this handy guide to NHS prescription costs.

How much does an NHS prescription cost?

In England, the standard prescription cost is £9.35 per item as of January 2022. This means that if you've one prescription that lists several types of medication, you’ll need to pay £9.35 per item. Some coordinating items may be charged separately, such as support stockings where each stocking is classed as a separate item. In this case, the pharmacist can discuss the charges with you.

If you live or are registered with a GP, in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland all prescriptions are free of charge.

Who’s entitled to a free NHS prescription?

You're entitled to a free prescription if any of the following apply when the prescription is dispensed to you:

  • You’re aged 60 or over
  • You’re aged under 16
  • You're aged 16 to 18 and still in full time education
  • You've a valid maternity exemption certificate - you can receive one if you’re currently pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • You've a registered medical condition (the list of conditions is given below) and a valid medical exemption certificate
  • You've a continuing physical disability that prevents you going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate
  • You hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • You're an NHS inpatient

You're also entitled to receive free prescriptions if you, your partner or civil partner receive any of the following, or if you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving any of the following:

  • Income Support or if you're on low income
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit and meet the criteria

You're also entitled to free prescriptions if you're entitled to or named on:

  • A valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if you don't have a certificate, you can show your award notice
  • A valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

Which medical conditions get free prescriptions?

If you have been diagnosed with or are undergoing treatment for a certain medical condition, you may also be entitled to receive free NHS prescriptions. You can apply for a medical exemption certificate if you have been diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

  • Cancer, including the effects of cancer or the effects of current or previous cancer treatment
  • A permanent fistula - such as a laryngostomy, colostomy, ileostomy or some renal dialysis fistulas - requiring continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • A form of hypoadrenalism - such as Addison's disease - for which specific substitution therapy is required
  • Diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Diabetes mellitus - unless your specified treatment is diet changes alone
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
  • Epilepsy that requires continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • A continuing physical disability that means you cannot go out without the help of another person (temporary disabilities are not included, even if they last for several months)

Which items are free on the NHS?

Aside from the exemptions mentioned above, the following contraceptive methods are also free on the NHS:

  • The progesterone-only pill
  • The combined pill
  • Condoms
  • Female condoms
  • Caps or diaphragms
  • The contraceptive implant
  • The contraceptive injection
  • Contraceptive patch
  • IUD (intrauterine device or coil)
  • IUS (intrauterine system or hormonal coil)
  • Vaginal ring

Get help with your NHS repeat prescriptions

Did you know you may be eligible for financial help to cover the costs of your NHS prescriptions? You can use this quick NHS checker to see if you qualify for the support.

Once you’ve figured out whether you need to pay for your prescription, you might also require a repeat prescription. Sometimes, if you need to take multiple prescriptions on a regular basis, it can be cheaper to pay for a PPC (prescription prepayment certificate), which could help you save money in the long term. If you’ve paid for an NHS prescription while having valid PPC, you can claim a refund, providing you collected an FP57 refund receipt when you paid. If you rely on repeat prescriptions, tick something else off your to-do list by downloading the Evergreen Life app and ordering your repeat prescriptions for delivery - for free!

Written by
Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA

Meet Dr Brian Fisher MBBCh MBE MSc FRSA, Clinical Director at Evergreen Life, and a Medical Expert with more than 42 years' experience as a GP.

Article updated:
March 9, 2022
Reviewed by:
Dr James Harmsworth King MBBS MPhil PhD
Biotechnology & Medical Expert
Anna Keeble BA MA
Wellbeing Expert