Are You Entitled To Free Prescriptions?

Prescriptions are now free to all in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Patients in England with cystinosis may find that they are asked to pay for prescriptions once they reach adulthood, so it is worthwhile to check if you are entitled to free prescriptions.

Who is entitled to get free prescriptions in England?
If you are aged 60 or over, or aged under 16.
If you are aged 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education.
If you are pregnant, or have had a baby in the previous 12 months.
If you have a listed medical condition and have an exemption certificate (see below).
If you get income support, jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance.
If you are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
People on a low income who have a certificate HC2 (see below).

Who can get a medical exemption certificate?
Although there are many conditions requiring regular medication, only the following qualify for an exemption certificate:
• Treatment for cancer.
• A permanent fistula requiring dressing.
• Forms of hypoadrenalism such as Addison’s disease.
• Diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism.
• Diabetes mellitus except where treatment is by diet alone.
• Hypoparathyroidism.
• Myxoedema (underactive thyroid) or other conditions where thyroid hormone replacement is necessary.
• Myasthenia gravis.
• Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive medication.
• A continuing physical disability which means you cannot go out without help from another person.

If you have one of the specified conditions ask for an application form from your doctor’s surgery. You need to fill it in and your doctor will sign to confirm the information you’ve given is correct. You will then be sent a Medical Exemption Certificate.

Although cystinosis is not on this list, some may qualify if they have one of the above conditions as a complication of cystinosis, for example diabetes, hypothyroidism, or if they are currently receiving dialysis. Cystinosis Foundation UK have previously contacted the Department of Health with regards to this list and explained to them a little about the condition. This is a big issue not just for those with Cystinosis but for many with long term conditions. The reply from the Department of Health indicated that this list of conditions is not something that is going to be addressed any time in the near future.

How can people on a low income apply for help?
Some people on a low income, such as students, may qualify for help with prescription charges. Your entitlement to help is based on your circumstances, such as your level of income, savings, etc. To apply you will need to complete a HC1 form ‘Claim for Help with Health Costs’ giving various details of your circumstances.

How can regular prescription charges be reduced?
If you do not qualify for exemption you may be able to reduce the cost of your prescriptions by buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate. This certificate will cover the cost of all your prescriptions during a particular period. A Prescription Prepayment Certificate costs £29.10 for 3 months and £104.00 for 12 months.
Another way of addressing the cost of prescriptions could be to ask your doctor for more than the months’ supply they usually prescribe. If you only take one item, you could ask your GP if s/he will give you 2 or 3 months’ supply to help keep the cost to yourself down. This decision is entirely up to the prescriber NOT based on the drug, its cost, or the condition being treated.

For further information on prescription costs please click on the following link: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/Prescriptioncosts.aspx

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