How much does a prescription cost in the UK?

An overview of current prescription costs in the UK.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

In the UK, the Department of Health strictly controls costs for prescription drugs obtained on the NHS. Still, many many of us leave the pharmacy or dispensary not fully understanding the costs associated with our prescriptions.

To address this, we’ve put together a simple guide to assist you. We’ll explore the standard cost of prescriptions in England, whether you can access free NHS prescriptions and ways to save money on your prescriptions.

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How much is an NHS prescription?

The standard prescription cost in England is £9.00 per item. This means that you will have to pay £9.00 for each drug listed on your prescription.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescription drugs are free for residents or anyone who is registered with a GP based in that country.

Can I get a free NHS prescription?

In England, there are several categories of people who are eligible for free NHS prescriptions. You may be entitled to free NHS prescriptions if you are:

  • Aged 60 and over
  • Under 16 years old
  • 16 to 18 years old and in full time education
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months and have a legitimate maternity exemption certificate
  • In possession of a valid war pension exemption certificate
  • On low income and receiving specific types of benefits (you or your partner)
  • In possession of a medical exemption certificate (usually given to those with a physical disability or specified medical condition such as diabetes or cancer)

If you are concerned about your prescription costs, your GP can help you establish whether you qualify for free NHS prescriptions. You can also use the official NHS eligibility checker to find out whether you are entitled.

Can I save money on NHS prescriptions?

If you regularly have to pick up NHS prescriptions, there is a way to save on costs. You may benefit from applying for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).

A PPC essentially acts like a pass that allows you to pick up unlimited prescriptions for a one off cost. There are two types of PPC:

  • A three-month certificate which will set you back £29.10
  • A 12-month certificate costing £104.00 (which can be paid for in 10 monthly instalments of £10.40).

The amount that you can save through a PPC varies depending on the number of prescriptions you obtain every month. The more the prescriptions, the more you will save. For example, if you need two prescriptions each month, you can save more than £110 a year. Iff you need 3 prescriptions, you can save more than £215. 

A PPC can be bought from the NHS Business Services Authority website or by phoning the NHS on 0300 330 1341. You will need your official NHS number as well as payment details (debit card, credit card or bank) to complete the purchase.

You can also purchase a PPC from a pharmacy that is registered to sell them (a list of these pharmacies can be obtained from the NHS Business Services Authority website). 

Key takeaway

Unlike many other countries across the world, the costs of prescription drugs in the UK are standardised. One main advantage of such as a system is that it allows you to appropriately budget for your medical expenses, knowing there will be no surprises once you get to the pharmacy to collect your prescriptions. 

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