How to cut the cost of NHS prescriptions and get cheap or free medicines before prices rise

PRESCRIPTION prices are set to rise next week but there are ways you can save money on essential medications – and even pay nothing at all.

Here's what you need to know about price rises and the discounts you could be entitled to.

From April 1 the cost of an NHS prescription will rise in England by as much as £2.20.

The price hike was announced in February by the the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) – prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A single prescription for one item will rise by 20p to £9.35 from the start of April.

A prescription "season ticket" covering three months of medication will cost over £30 for the first time, rising by 60p to £30.25.

And for one covering 12 months, it will now set you back £108.10, an increase of £2.20.

If you get prescription medication regularly it could be wroth checking how you can cut costs – here's what you need to know.

Can you get free prescriptions?

The fist place to start is checking if you need to pay for prescriptions at all.

Some people in England are entitled to free prescriptions, and includes the following groups:

  • You're aged 60 or over
  • You're aged under 16 or are 17 or 18 and in full-time education
  • You're pregnant or had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • You have a specific medical condition and have valid medical exemption card
  • You have a continuing physical disability that prevents you going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • You hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • You are an NHS inpatient

Medical conditions for which you can get a medical exemption card, which entitles you to free prescriptions include cancer and epilepsy.

You can see more about the conditions covered by the card from the NHS.

You can find out how to get a maternity exemption card from the NHS.

You can also get free prescriptions ifyou or your partner are claiming certain benefits, or if you're aged under 20 and dependent on someone claiming certain benefits, including:

  • income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit and meet the criteria

You can also get free prescriptions if you are entitled to an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.

To get one of these, you need to qualify for child tax credits or working tax credits (including a disability or severe disability element) and have an income of less than £15,276 a year.

You can easily check if you can get free prescriptions using the government's eligibility checker.

This same checker can also tell you if you're entitled to other free health related support, like free glasses and sight tests or dental treatment.

Prescription changes at a glance

Here’s how much you’ll pay for a prescription before and after April 1, 2021.

Single prescription charge

  • Now: £9.15
  • After April 1: £9.35

3-month prescription prepayment certificate

  • Now: £29.65
  • After April 1: £30.25

12-month prescription prepayment certificate

  • Now: £105.90
  • After April 1: £108.10

Help towards prescriptions and other medical costs if you're on a low income

If you don't qualify for free prescriptions with any of these schemes, you could still get some help towards costs if you are on a low income.

How much you can get depends on your income and circumstances, including your outgoings and any savings you have.

You can find out more about the NHS low income scheme here, including who qualifies and how to apply.

If you've already had to pay for prescriptions or other treatment costs and think you qualify for this help you might be able to claim a refund when you apply.

You can check easily if you can help with prescriptions and other health related costs using the government's eligibility checker.

It can tell you if you can get help with other NHS costs , like glasses and sight tests, dental check-ups and treatments, or even help with travel costs when getting NHS treatment.

Get a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC)

A Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) is like a season ticket for prescriptions.

It can work out cheaper if you pay for regular medication and can cover either three months or one year.

A three month PPC is £29.65 before April 1 and £30.25 after, while a 12 month PPC is now £105.90, rising to £108.10 from the start of next month.

The PPC covers as many prescriptions as you need over the time period you pay for.

To make the 12 month PPC worthwhile you would need to normally pay for at least 12 prescriptions each year.

Each of these 12 medications would work out cheaper than an individual prescription charge.

For a three month prescription you would need to get at least four separate prescription items for the PPC to work out cheaper.

If you don't already have one of these PPCs and it will work out cheaper, you'll also save money by getting one before the price goes up on April 1.

Don't assume prescriptions are the cheapest option

If you’re prescribed over the counter medication like painkillers or skin condition creams, it may be cheaper to buy them outright, rather than paying for a prescription given to you by your doctor.

A 500ml tub of Aqueous cream, for example, is £4.39 at Boots, so getting a prescription for the same lotion would leave you out of pocket.

It's worth asking your pharmacist if the item you've been prescribed is available over the counter and cheaper to by that way.

Ask for a bigger prescription

Doctors will often automatically write out prescriptions for small amounts, but you can make savings on your prescriptions by getting them in bulk.

If you need a lot of medication, such as three months' worth of antihistamine for hayfever, getting a doctor to do a bulk prescription is cheaper than getting one month's worth three times – you'll pay just once rather than three times.

Prescription charges are not the only costs that change in April.

Here are nine big changes for drivers coming next month – from driving tests to car tax.

Universal Credit and other benefits are set to rise – here's how much you'll get.

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