About NHS prescriptions

About NHS prescriptions

You can get NHS prescriptions from your doctor’s surgery, dentist, or some hospital departments. These can be one-off prescriptions, or a repeat prescription, where you take the same medicine over a longer period of time. 

Your GP can send your prescription to your chosen pharmacy electronically, saving you a trip to the surgery to collect it. Many GP surgeries will also let you request your repeat prescription online.

Do I have to pay for my prescriptions?

The current prescription charge is the current NHS charge rate per item, which you will have to pay unless you are entitled to free prescriptions.

Children aged 15 or less, 16 to 18 year olds in full-time education, and people over 60 are entitled to free prescriptions. 

You are also eligible for free prescriptions if:

  • you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • you have certain on-going medical conditions
  • you are under 60 and receive a war pension
  • you receive specific benefits.

Additionally, if you’re on a low income, you may be eligible for free prescriptions.

You can check if you need to pay for your prescriptions on the NHS website or by calling their helpline on 0300 330 1349.

In most circumstances, you will need to get an exemption certificate as evidence that you don’t need to pay for your prescriptions. For maternity or medical exemptions, you can get a form from your doctor, midwife or health visitor. 

If you are entitled to free prescriptions because you’re unemployed or on a low income, you should check if you need an exemption certificate 

Exemption certificates are valid for a limited period of time. You can check if your exemption certificate is still valid on the NHS website  


Contraceptives are almost always free on the NHS, no matter how old you are. 

Contraceptives are occasionally prescribed for other purposes, such as managing acne. In these circumstances, you will have to pay for your prescription unless you are exempt from paying prescription charges.

Multiple charge items 

Generally, you only have to pay one charge for each item on your prescription, but there are some exceptions to this. 

Some products count as two items, even if they come in the same box, so you have to pay twice for them. For example some ‘duo’ products that contain a cream and a tablet will be charged as two items, and Hormone Replacement Therapy (also known as HRT) is sometimes classed as two medicines. For some appliances (such as stockings) a prescription charge is payable for each garment. 

If you’re unsure about how much your medicine will cost, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Managing the cost of prescriptions

If you have several prescriptions, it may work out cheaper for you to buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). A 3 month PPC costs £29.10, a 12 month PPC costs £104. You will make a saving with a PPC if you have more than three prescription items in a 3 month period or twelve items in a 12 month period. 

Prepayment certificates can be bought online at https://apps.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/ppc-online/patient.do

Private prescriptions 

If you have seen a Doctor or other Healthcare Professional privately or the medication you have been prescribed is not allowed at the NHS’ expense, you will have been given a private prescription. The cost to dispense this will depend on what you have been prescribed. 

Your pharmacist will be able to advise you how much you will be charged.

Side Effects:

Side effects occur with lots of prescription medicines, but not everyone will experience them. For most people who do experience side effects, they are mild and often short-lived, but some side effects can be very serious.

Every medicine comes with a Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) which includes important about who it is suitable for and known side effects. You should always read the PIL before starting a new medicine and follow your doctor or pharmacist’s instructions for taking your medicine.

If you are concerned about the side effects you’re experiencing, contact your doctor or pharmacist. Telephone 111 if you want to speak to someone out of hours. If you believe you’re having a severe allergic reaction or, in an emergency, call 999.

Yellow Card Scheme

If you experience any side effects not listed in the Patient Information Leaflet, you can report them through the Yellow Card Scheme. You can also report any problems with medical devices, or medicines you think might be fake.

How we work within the NHS:

Community pharmacies are all privately-owned businesses with contracts to provide NHS services. Our pharmacists and teams are not NHS employees but we work closely with the NHS.

Working with your GPs

We work with your GP to make sure you get your medicines promptly and to resolve any problems you might have with your medicines. 

Your pharmacist can often help with questions you have about your medicines and may be able to assist you to manage your prescriptions.

If you are prescribed a new medicine your pharmacist can check you are getting on well with it

Your pharmacist and their team can also give advice about healthy living and how common ailments can be treated, sparing you a trip to your GP.

Working in the wider NHS

We also work with the NHS to help to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the company.

Our pharmacies offer a range of services, such as flu vaccinations, blood pressure checks, advice about stopping smoking and helping you to prepare for your holidays, with any vaccinations you need.

We also work with the NHS and Public Health England with their national campaigns to help people improve their health and wellbeing and reduce the number of prescriptions issued and hospital admissions.

Our pharmacies also work within their community, with involvement with the Primary Care Network, local Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS regional teams.

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