Free prescriptions warning: Check your eligibility or face £100 fine

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Many demographics are eligible for free prescriptions on the NHS depending on their age, income or health. However, if someone claims prescriptions or treatment without charge when they do not qualify for it, they could face consequences. Those guilty of getting free prescriptions when they are not eligible could get a £100 fine, even if it is a mistake.

Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

The following groups are entitled to free prescriptions on the NHS under current Government rules:

  • Claimants of certain benefits
  • Those who have a maternity exemption certificate
  • People who have valid medical exemption certificate (Medx)
  • Those who have valid war pension exemption certificate
  • People who have a HC2 certificate (NHS Low Income Scheme)
  • Anyone who paid for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC)
  • Britons over 60
  • Young people who are under 16 or between the ages 16-18 and in full-time education

If someone does not meet any of the above eligibility criteria, they could face a £100 fine by claiming free prescriptions.

READ MORE: State pension set to rise next year but 520,000 people will miss out

Which conditions qualify someone for free prescriptions?

One of the most popular ways of getting this freebie benefit on the NHS is by having a qualifying health condition and getting a MedX certificate.

Among the conditions that qualify someone for a medical exemption certificate 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

In light of the cost of living crisis, many people are eager to see whether they are eligible for free prescriptions.

Prescription holders are able to access a tool on the NHS which checks their eligibility for the freebie benefit.

This process only takes three minutes for people to check and could save households a £100 penalty.

Keith Ridge, the chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England, explained why the £100 fine is necessary to make sure people do not abuse the free prescription benefit.

“Pharmacy teams are at the front-line in helping people understand the criteria for free prescriptions, and because mistaken claims place an extra cost burden on the NHS, it’s important that patients, carers and pharmacists know how and when they can make a claim.”

Alison O’Brien, the head of Loss Recovery Services from NHSBSA, added: “The NHS loses millions each year through fraudulent and incorrect claims for free prescriptions.

“On behalf of NHS England, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) checks claims randomly and retrospectively in order to appropriately recover funds and return them to NHS services.

“We encourage all patients to check their entitlement before claiming free prescriptions and our online tool provides support to understand if they are eligible.”

Alternative options, outside of free prescriptions, are available for those looking to reduce the price of their medication.

Currently, the average cost of a prescription charge comes to £9.35 per item but this could rise if someone needs to claim multiple prescriptions.

This can be reduced by purchasing a PPC which pays for all prescriptions for a set price over either a three to 12-month period.

As it stands, a prepayment certificate costs an individual £30.25 for three months and £108.10 for 12 months.

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