NHS prescription costs will be frozen for the next 12 months, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed, the first time that costs have been frozen in more than a decade.
Charges for single prescriptions will remain at £9.35 until next year. The freeze only affects England because prescriptions are free of charge in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Although costs have been frozen this year, there is growing concern that the free prescription age will be increased from 60 to 65 which government ministers consulted on last year. A decision has yet to be announced, but if this becomes law, it will mean that more than 2m people will need to start paying for their prescriptions, with estimates that this could cost individuals who don’t qualify for another exemption an average of £50 to £100 annually.
If you need regular prescriptions there is a way to reduce costs. Here’s what you need to know.
What the rise means
Several groups of people don’t pay for prescriptions. These include:
- If you’re aged 60 or over
- If you’re aged under 16 (or under 18 if you are in full-time education)
- If you’re pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months (you’ll need a valid medical exemption certificate)
- If you have a particular illness or medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate
- If you’re on income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- If you’re on income support
- If you’re on income-based employment and support allowance
- If you’re receiving Pension Credit guarantee credit
- If you’re on Universal Credit.
You can also get free prescriptions if you or your partner are named on, or are entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate or a valid HC2 certificate (full help with health costs).
Prescription ‘season tickets’
If you need a number of prescriptions in a year you may be better off buying a prescription prepayment certificate which will cover all your prescriptions for a year. There’s also a three month version (you’d need four or more prescription items in the three month period to save money with it). It costs £30.25 for three months, or £108.10 if you buy one lasting a year.
If you buy the annual prescription prepayment certificate, you can pay for it by Direct Debit over ten months. The certificate also entitles you to free dental prescriptions, although not free dental treatment. You can buy a prepayment certificate at NHS.uk or at any pharmacy which sells prepayment certificates. It’s also possible to buy one over the phone by calling 0300 330 1341.
The table below shows how much you can save with a prepayment certificate depending on the number of prescriptions you need.
|Number of prescribed medicines you need each month||Saving with a 12 month PPC||Saving with a 3 month PPC|
|2||More than £115 a year||More than £25 in 3 months|
|3||More than £225 a year||More than £50 in 3 months|
|4||More than £340 a year||More than £75 in 3 months|
NHS low income scheme
If you’re on a low income, you may also be able to get help with medical costs through the NHS Low Income scheme.
You will qualify for full or partial help towards prescription charges if:
- You have savings or capital less than £16,000, or
- You have savings or capital less than £23,250 and you live in a care home.
If you’re entitled to help, it also applies to your partner and any children who are dependent on you.
Will you benefit from the prescription price freeze? Do you pay for your prescriptions every three months or annually to keep costs down? Join the money discussion on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.