Do you really need to be paying for prescriptions?

A man collects his prescription.
A man collects his prescription.
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Could you be paying too much for your prescriptions?

Many people are eligible for free prescriptions but even those who think they have to pay the full charge for each item may be able to save some money on their prescription costs.

Anyone who falls in to any of the following categories is entitled to free prescriptions:

n All those aged under 16 or over 60.

n All those aged 26 – 28 and in full-time education.

n Anyone who is pregnant or who has had a baby in the last 12 months – a valid maternity exemption certificate must be presented at the time of having a prescription dispensed at a pharmacy.

This exemption is called the MatEx. It also entitles you to free dental treatment during the same time period.

An FW8 form will have to be filled out in the first instance. This is available from the doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor. Once filled in, it needs to be counter-signed by one of the above named health professionals to confirm that the information provided is correct.

Anyone with a specified medical condition that holds a valid medical exemption certificate is also entitled to free prescriptions. The medical conditions covered by this are as follows:

n Any type of ostomy, requiring continuous surgical dressing or an appliance.

n Hypothyroidism.

n Diabetes (except where treatment is controlled by diet on its own).

n Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy.

n Myasthenia Gravis, a permanent physical disability that stops a person from going out without the help of another person.

n Cancer sufferers.

The doctor can provide you with an application form and will need to counter sign it to state that the information given is accurate. MedEx certificates last for five years and it is the owner’s responsibility to get them renewed, although reminder letters are often sent out as the renewal time approaches.

Anyone undergoing kidney dialysis with a permanent fistula that requires the continuous use of appliances such as a catheter is entitled to free prescriptions. As is anyone holding a valid war exemption certificate, providing the prescription is for your accepted disability.

Those with low incomes should fill out a HC1 form, available at any pharmacy.

If you qualify for help with costs then a HC2 form will be sent to you. These can last from six months up to five years, depending on your situation. There is a chance a HC3 form will be sent back to you which offers limited help – this is not a full exemption.

So when else are treatments given for free? Some medication is available without charge, for example prescribed contraceptives (including fitting for implants and coils). In addition any medication administered in hospital, or at an NHS walk in centre, by a doctor or a primary care trust (for example to treat tuberculosis or a sexually transmitted disease) is also free.

Some people have to pay full price for their prescriptions but need regular treatment such as those with respiratory conditions like asthma or those without disability but with chronic pain. In this case the NHS offers a pre-payment certificate scheme.

There are two types of certificates, a three monthly one and a yearly one. They can be paid by direct debit or as a lump sum.

It is beneficial for anyone paying for four or more charges in three months and 15 or more charges annually.

For up to date costs and ordering information please visit your local pharmacy.

Take a look at how much you are spending on your medication and remember, some prescription medicines can be bought – so always ask at the pharmacy before paying.