June 23, 2022

Frozen prescription costs – who pays for drugs in England and Wales?

Prescription fees in England, which would normally rise with inflation, will be frozen at £9.35 until next year, but who has to pay for drugs in England and Wales?

Most adults in England have to pay for their prescriptions

The government has announced that prescription fees in England will be frozen for the first time in 12 years. The announcement comes as millions of households across the country grapple with the rising cost of living.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed the prescription fee will remain at £9.35 until next year. Normally, according to the Department of Health, prescription fees would rise “in line with inflation” – which is currently at a 9% high in 40 years.

Javid said the move to freeze prescription fees “would put money back in people’s pockets”, but nearly 90% of prescriptions are free. So who really has to pay for the prescriptions?

Who is entitled to free prescriptions?

Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Various groups of people in England are also entitled to receive free prescriptions.

According to the NHS, you can get free prescriptions if you fall into at least one of the following categories:

  • You are over 60

  • You are under 16

  • You are between 16 and 18 years old and studying full time

  • You are pregnant or have had a baby within the past 12 months and have a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate (MedEx)

  • You have a specified medical condition and a valid Medical Exemption Certificate

  • You hold a valid War Pension Exemption Certificate and your prescription is for your accepted disability

  • You are an NHS hospital patient

In addition, you are entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partners) receive the following benefits, or if you are under 20 and are dependent on a beneficiary:

  • Income support

  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Employment and Income Support Benefit

  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

  • Universal Credit (provided you meet the relevant criteria)

You can also get free prescriptions if you qualify for or are named on a valid NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate or a valid NHS Certificate for Comprehensive Healthcare Cost Assistance (HC2). You can also get help if you are named on an NHS Certificate for Partial Healthcare Costs (HC3).

Who should pay for prescription drugs?

If you are in England and you are not part of any of the groups mentioned above entitled to free prescriptions, you will have to pay for your own. But dispensing fees will at least remain frozen at £9.35 this year, rather than rising with inflation as they normally would.

However, some items are still free, including NHS inpatient medicines and contraceptives. You can use the NHS online eligibility checker to see what help you are entitled to with NHS costs.

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