Cheap and free prescriptions 2023: how to save on medicines in the UK

Cheap and free prescriptions 2023: how to save on medicines in the UK

The Government has hiked prescription charges, but it's possible to actually cut costs. Here’s how you can get cheap or even free prescriptions.

lovemoney staff

Household money

lovemoney staff
Updated on 12 April 2023

Prescription costs frozen for 2022/23

The Government has hiked prescription charges for 2023/24 by 30p.

While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all offer free prescriptions, in England there is a charge of £9.35 per item.

It's obviously good news that the price won't be rising again next month (when the new financial year starts), but it is possible to actually reduce the amount you pay.

This guide explains how those who do have to pay can cut the cost of their prescriptions.

Check if you qualify for free prescriptions

In England, you can get access to free prescriptions if you are:

  • Under 16 or over 60;
  • You’re 16-18 and in full-time education;
  • You’re pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months (and have a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate);
  • Your doctor has prescribed contraceptives;
  • You’re an NHS inpatient;
  • You have a War Pension Exemption Certificate;
  • You or your partner receive Income Support, Income-based jobseeker’s allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit or Universal Credit;
  • You have a Medical Exemption Certificate (which is given to those with illnesses like cancer or a severe disability).

If you qualify for free prescriptions, you just need to fill in the back of the form at the pharmacists.

Get a Prescription Payment Certificate (PPC)

A Prescription Payment Certificate (PPC) can help you save money if you need multiple prescriptions for your health.

It essentially acts as a season pass that allows unlimited prescriptions for a one-off cost for a set period of three or 12 months.

A three-month PPC will set you back £31.25, so makes sense if you think you will need to get four or more prescriptions within this timeframe.

An annual PPC will cost £111.60, which is worth going for if you need 13 or more prescriptions over a 12-month period.

If you don't have that kind of cash handy, you can pay in 10 monthly instalments for the annual PPC.

You can order a PPC online or call 0300 330 1341.

Don’t always use a prescription

The cost of a prescription is charged at a flat rate, which applies no matter the type of medication you order.

But if you’re prescribed over-the-counter medication like painkillers or eczema creams it is often cheaper to buy them outright than paying for a prescription given to you by your doctor.

A 500ml tub of Aqueous cream, for example, is £3.59 at Boots.

If you are going to buy your over-the-counter medication without a prescription, make sure you shop around.

Apart from big names like Boots and LloydsPharmacy, you might be able to save with an online pharmacy like Chemist Direct.

Ask for a bigger package

If your prescription is for something that you will need repeatedly and there’s no risk of it expiring before you finish it, you could ask your doctor for a bigger prescription to make it worthwhile.

So rather than 28 antidepressants, you could get 56 on the same prescription.

Try subscribe and save

For over-the-counter medications you need regularly, you might be able to save by subscribing.

Amazon’s Subscribe and Save, for example, allows you to save between 5% and 15% when you regularly order the same product to the same address.

Swap branded for own-brand medicines

Branded medicines from the likes of Neurofen or Clarityn usually attract a huge markup compared to generic or own-brand versions.

Ibuprofen costs £2.29 for 16 tablets at Boots, but its own-brand alternative can be bought for just 55p.

As long as the ‘active’ ingredients are the same, the medicine will have the same effect. Just check the non-active ingredients for anything you may be allergic to.

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