What entitles you to a free prescription?
Not all benefits entitle you to free prescriptions; only those in receipt of the benefits (or combinations of benefits) listed below are eligible.
The NHS will cover the cost of your prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, you are included in the award of:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance paid on its own or with contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance paid on its own or with contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) paid on its own or with Pension Credit (Savings Credit)
- Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit including a disability element or Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit paid together. Your family income (used to work out your tax credits) must also be £15,276 or less. You will normally be sent an NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate (please see below).
You can use an entitlement letter, award notice or most recent Universal Credit statement from either the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, Jobcentre Plus or Pension Service as evidence.
The NHS will cover the cost of your prescriptions if you have a valid exemption certificate.
Medical Exemption Certificate
The NHS will cover the cost of your prescriptions if you have a qualifying medical condition and a medical exemption certificate. Speak to your doctor to find out if you are eligible.
Click here for more information and to see which conditions make you eligible.
Your certificate will be valid for 5 years starting a month before your application was received. It will show the date on which it expires.
NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate
If your family income (used to work out your tax credits) is £15,276 or less and you receive Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit including a disability element or Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit paid together, you will automatically be sent an NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate. It will be valid for up to 7 months and it will show the date on which it expires.
Your tax credit award notice can also be used to prove your eligibility for free prescriptions.
(NHS Low Income Scheme certificate for full help with health costs).
If you are on a low income, the NHS will cover the costs of your prescriptions if you have applied to the NHS Low Income Scheme and have been issued with a HC2 certificate.
Your partner and any dependent children under 19 included in your application will be included too. You will need to reapply when your certificate expires.
War Pension Exemption Certificate
If you have a War Pension Exemption Certificate, the NHS will only cover the cost of any prescriptions related to your accepted disability.
You will need to pay for any other prescriptions you may need, unless you are also exempt on other grounds.
Free of Charge Contraceptives
The NHS covers the cost of items prescribed for the purposes of contraception, although any items prescribed for other reasons (even on the same prescription) will need to be paid for.
If you are still unsure
If you are unsure as to whether or not you qualify for a free prescription or you are waiting to find out, you should pay for your prescription and ask for an NHS receipt. If you later find out that you were eligible at the time, you can then claim a refund.
How to find out more
For information on benefit and pension entitlement visit the DWP website
For information on exemption certificates, the NHS Low Income Scheme and prescription pre-payment services visit the NHS Help with Health Costs website
For information on help with prescriptions charges, dental charges, eyecare costs, healthcare travel costs, wigs and fabric support costs visit the NHS website