Prescriptions explained: Who can qualify and claim free medication on the NHS

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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Currently, all over 60s in England can claim this “freebie” medication benefit, rather than pay the £9.35 per item charge. Meanwhile, residents in Wales and Scotland are able to receive it no matter what age they are. Many people claim free prescriptions by receiving a valid medical exemption certificate, otherwise known as a MedEX. Medical exemption certificates are given to claimants who have a specific health condition or illness that meets the NHS’s qualifying criteria for additional support.

On top of this, a MedEx for free prescriptions can be awarded to people who have an existing physical disability that stops them from going out without the assistance from another person.

Anyone with a qualifying condition can ask their doctor for a FP92A form which will allow them to apply for a medical exemption certificate.

During the application, the claimant’s GP will sign the form to confirm that all the details and diagnosis is correct.

This medical exemption certificate will be valid from one month before the date the NHS Business Services Authority receives the application form.

Various illnesses and health conditions can mean someone qualifies for a medical exemption certificate. These include:

  • Cancer
  • A permanent fistula which needs continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • A form of hypoadrenalism which requires specific substitution therapy
  • Diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema
  • Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy

Young people who are under 16 are able to get free medication on the NHS, as well as those aged between 16 to 18 who are in full-time education.

Those who are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year and have a valid maternity exemption certificate, which is known as a MatX, are also eligible to claim this support.

As it stands, the cost for a prescription comes to £9.35 per item, however many claimants have multiple medications which hike the price.

The pressures placed on households due to inflation and the rise to energy price cap has also led to concerns over some people foregoing taking vital medications to pay bills.

Currently, prescription charges have been frozen to help those who are unable to claim free medication with the cost of living crisis.

While this has been welcomed by stakeholders in public health, Laura Cockram, the chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition, outlined why more needs to be done.

Ms Cockram said: “We welcome the decision to freeze prescription charges this year, however the English Government still lags behind their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts in recognising that this charge is a false economy and must be scrapped entirely.

“Despite the freeze, the cost of living continues to spiral, so pharmacists are seeing an increase in the number of people asking which items they could leave behind and live without, simply because they can not afford them.

“Rarely is a health condition managed by just one medication so it’s multiple charges each and every month.

“It’s entirely unfair that the UK Government is putting this unnecessary pressure on pharmacists to have to provide counsel on which of these vital medications should be prioritised by the patient. That is not their job and it’s seldom a simple answer.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 90 pecent of community prescription items in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60 years old, 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 with the state pension age. We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”

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