Free NHS prescriptions: How to check whether you're eligible – or risk £100 penalty

While most NHS treatment is free, in certain cases, charges do apply. For instance, NHS prescriptions in England currently cost £9.15 per item.

There are a whole host of reasons why a person may be able to get free NHS prescriptions and help with paying other NHS costs.

Age is a factor, with those under 16 or 60 or older being entitled to free NHS prescriptions.

Additionally, 16 to 18-year-olds who are in full-time education also don’t need to pay the charge, although they may need to show proof of being in full-time education.

Those who are on a low income may also be able to get financial support, such as if they receive certain income-based benefits.

READ MORE: Personal Independence Payment (PIP) amount explained

For instance, a person can automatically get free NHS prescriptions if they’re included in award for Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Should an individual be in receipt of any of the three aforementioned benefits, then their partner and any dependent young people under 20 would also be entitled to free NHS prescriptions.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) directs people to use their award notice as proof that they’re entitled.

Universal Credit claimants may also be entitled to support.


Recipients of the six-in-one benefit may get free or reduced cost NHS healthcare, with entitlement dependent on earnings for the most recent assessment period.

The NHSBSA states: “You’re entitled if your earnings during that period were:

£435 or less

£935 or less if your Universal Credit includes an element for a child, or if you have a limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work related activity.

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“‘Most recent assessment period’ means the assessment period that ended immediately before the date you claim free NHS healthcare. It runs for a calendar month.”

It’s possible to check to see whether a person can get help when it comes to paying NHS charges – from NHS prescriptions to sight tests, glasses and contact lenses – online.

The “Check what help you could get to pay for NHS costs” tool on the NHSBSA website requires the user to answer a number of questions, and it should take around three minutes.

Checking eligibility could be worthwhile, as the NHSBSA warns.

Its website states: “If you incorrectly claim free NHS prescriptions or free or reduced cost dental treatment, you’re at risk of getting a Penalty Charge Notice.”

Those sent a Penalty Charge Notice will be asked to pay the original NHS prescription or dental treatment charges, as well as an additional penalty charge.

The penalty charge is five times the original amount that was owed, up to a maximum of £100.

What’s more, once this notice has been issued, if the payment isn’t made within 28 days, a surcharge may be added.

As such, the NHSBSA urges people to find out whether they’re entitled to support via the eligibility checker first.

“If you claim free NHS prescriptions or NHS dental treatment when you’re not entitled, you could face a £100 penalty charge. Even if it’s by mistake,” the website warns.



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