Woman calls for free prescription eligibility to be extended on NHS

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

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Free prescriptions are available to certain groups in the UK if they meet specific qualifying criteria. Those who are not eligible for this freebie benefit have to pay prescription charges, which come to £9.35 per item on the NHS. Prescription holders are sharing how they are “paying to stay alive” due to having to manage the price of their medication during the cost of living crisis.

Campaign groups such as the Prescription Charges Coalition are calling on the Government to extend the eligibility threshold for free prescriptions in the UK.

One person who shared her experience with the group was Jade, who lives with Cystic Fibrosis and is not eligible for free prescriptions.

Discussing her condition, she explained: “The year I turned 19, I was in my first year at university.

“I had just about found my feet, managing my complex and exhausting chronic health condition independently for the first time in my life, whilst also studying full-time.

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“The day my friendly campus pharmacist told me that he would have to start charging me for my prescriptions, his voice quiet and his eyes unable to meet mine.

“It felt like I was being punished with yet another hurdle. That day, I left without my essential medications and I went home in tears.”

Referring to current free prescription rules as “outdated”, the young woman addressed the expense of supposedly cost-saving measures such as prepayment certificates (PPCs).

A PPC covers all of someone’s NHS prescriptions for a set price with individuals saving cash if they need more than three items in three months, or 11 items in 12 months.

Currently, the certificate costs £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for 12 months depending on how many prescriptions someone needs.

Jade added: “Everywhere I go, people are shocked and incredulous that I have to pay for my prescriptions.

“Friends, strangers, even healthcare providers – everyone can see the injustice. The cost of an annual £108.10 pre-payment certificate feels like a kick in the teeth, like I’m paying to stay alive.

“It’s only right that the outdated exemption rules are reconsidered, to acknowledge that people with Cystic Fibrosis are now living into their 40s, 50s and beyond.”

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Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

In England, those who are 60 or older qualify for the freebie benefit. However, residents in Wales and Scotland are eligible no matter what age they are.

However, young people living in England are able to qualify if they are under 16 years or age or are in higher education and between the ages of 16 and 18.

Anyone who is pregnant is able to free prescriptions if they have a valid maternity exemption certificate, which is otherwise known as a MatX.

Women who have had a baby within the past year are also able to get this certificate to reduce their prescription charge costs.

Many Britons opt to get a valid medical exemption certificate, commonly called a MedEx, which is available to those who have specific health conditions recognized by the NHS.

A MedEX can also be awarded to those who have recognised physical disabilities who require regular prescriptions for medications.

On the NHS website, the health service provides a full list of the eligible groups for this concession. This includes:

  • diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism
  • diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
  • hypoparathyroidism
  • epilepsy which needs continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • a continuing physical disability which you require help from another person
  • cancer

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