Free prescriptions ‘axed from April’ but 15 groups can already get them without charge

Free NHS prescriptions to end from April? What you need to know

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A free prescription is an important entitlement, especially for older individuals. However, the age could rise to 66 in England after a Government consultation which has created much controversy. The proposal has considered aligning the free prescription age with state pension age, which is also rising.

If the changes were to go ahead, it would mean millions of people between 60 and 65 may be required to meet the £9.35 per item charge.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, expressed her belief reform could come into force on April 1, the same day as prescription charges usually increase.

She remarked: “At the moment there’s no charge for over 60s but that could soon change. If it does, it would drag millions of people into having to pay for essential medicines.”

With many people hopeful to avoid charges, there could be alternative exemptions at hand.

In fact, there are 15 groups in all who can get their prescription for free in England.

As a result, it will be worth checking if a person falls into any other category.

The first group is the over 60s, but with the changes on the horizon, this could be at risk.

Two other groups are based on age: those under the age of 16, and those between 16 to 18 who are in full-time education.

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Britons who are registered disabled could get a free prescription, but they must be unable to go out or in receipt of help from someone else.

They will also be required to have a valid medical exemption certificate to avoid the charge.

Similarly, disabled people who have a war pension exemption certificate will not have to pay.

If pregnant women or a woman who had a baby in the last 12 months has a maternity exemption certificate, they can avoid payment.

Other exemptions on prescription charges are made available through exemption certificates.

MedEx is a process reserved for people with a specified medical condition who have a valid medical exemption certificate.

In the same way, individuals who have a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs – known as HC2 – will not have to meet any payment.

Perhaps one of the most all-encompassing groups of people who could secure a free prescription are those who get certain benefits.

These are: 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit 
  • Universal Credit – if earnings during last assessment were £435 or less, or £935 or less if the benefit includes an element for a child or a person has limited capability for work.

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Finally, individuals who have a valid NHS tax credits exemption certificate could be eligible for a free prescription.

Britons can secure this if they receive Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions.

 “The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age. No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”

Those who take regular medication are encouraged to see whether a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is suitable for them.

The Department suggests this option allows any individual to get the prescription they need for just over £2 per week. 

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