NHS free prescription age may rise but 15 groups already get medication for free

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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In the past, Britons have been hit with rising prescriptions costs in April, however this year the £9.35 per item charge has been frozen. If a person is not exempt, they will have to pay £9.35 for each medication they buy.

People in England are currently given free prescriptions when they turn 60, while medicines are free to everyone in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However under current proposals the upper age exemption for prescription charges could be aligned with the state pension age, which is currently 66 but rising.

This would mean the free prescription age rises by at least six years from its current level of 60 years old to .

Among those aged between 60 and 65, 3.54 million rely on NHS prescriptions.

Consequently, millions could miss out on free prescriptions overnight, depending on how and if the Government decides to implement changes.

There are, however, several people who can already secure free prescriptions.

These people would continue to get free prescriptions if the proposal goes ahead.

The NHS has outlined 15 groups of people who do not have to meet the charge.

Who can get free prescriptions?

Britons can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, they:

  • Are 60 or over
  • Are under 16
  • Are 16 to 18 and in full-time education
  • Are an NHS inpatient
  • Hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability

As long as someone holds a valid maternal exemption certificate, they can get free prescriptions while pregnant or if they’ve had a baby in the past 12 months.

They are also eligible – with a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx) – if they have a physical disability that stops them leaving the house independently, or have a specified medical condition.

A MedEx gives people free prescriptions valid for five years, or until their 60th birthday, whichever is first.

The medical conditions that warrant a MedEx are:

  • A permanent fistula (for example, caecostomy, colostomy, laryngostomy or ileostomy) which needs continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • A form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison’s Disease) for which specific substitution therapy is essential
  • Diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema (that is, hypothyroidism which needs thyroid hormone replacement)
  • Epilepsy which needs continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • A continuing physical disability which means someone cannot go out without the help of another person
  • Cancer (including treatment for the effects of the disease)

Britons on low incomes or benefits can also get free prescriptions.

People are entitled to free prescriptions if they or their partner (including civil partner) receive, or they are under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:

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

If someone is entitled to or named on:
A valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if someone does not have a certificate, they can show their award notice. People qualify if they get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less

A valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

If people have a low income, they may be eligible to receive financial help through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

The scheme covers:

  • Prescription costs
  • Dental costs
  • Eyecare costs
  • Healthcare travel costs
  • Wigs and fabric supports

People can apply for the scheme as long as their savings, investments or property (not including where they live) does not exceed the capital limit.

More details are on the NHS website.

The NHS has pointed Britons towards a simple way to find out if they are eligible for free prescriptions or help with health costs.

Their eligibility checker, available online, will provide people with the clarity they need on this.

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