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Prescription charges frozen for first time in 12 years

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

The NHS prescription charge in England will be frozen at £9.35 per item, the government has confirmed.

Patients in England requiring NHS prescriptions will continue to pay £9.35 for each medicine or appliance dispensed (excluding wigs and fabric supports), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed.

This is the first time since 2010 that prescription charges have been frozen, and the move comes due to the “consideration of the cost-of-living crisis”.

A rise was widely anticipated as price hikes have tended to come into effect on 1 April. Since 2012/13, prescription charges have increased by more than 20% from £7.65 per item.

Edward Argar, the minister of state for health, said: “Prescription charges will not be uplifted on 1 April 2022. There is currently no planned announcement on any future increase. Decisions on increases take account of a range of evidence including the Gross Domestic Product deflator.”

There’s no change in price for the prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) which works like a NHS ‘season ticket’. For a fee, it covers the cost of all pharmacy-dispensed medication.

The 12-month PPC costs £108.10 and saves people money if they need more than 11 prescribed items in a year. PPCs can be paid for in instalments.

Alternatively, a three-month season ticket currently costs £30.25, which could save someone cash if they buy four or more prescriptions in that time.

Patients should always check first if they qualify for an exemption to avoid paying for prescriptions entirely.

The prescription charge exemptions cover three categories:

  • Those of a certain age: those under 16, 16-18 in full time education, and those over 60.
  • Those on a low income i.e., via certain DWP benefits and Tax Credits (which will largely be replaced by Universal Credit) and the NHS Low Income Scheme.
  • Those with certain medical conditions and expectant/new mothers.

People aged 60 and over can currently get their prescriptions for free on the NHS in England. But the government is consulting on whether this age should increase to be aligned with the state pension age, which is currently 66 and expected to rise in the future.

A DHSC spokesperson, said: “Around 90% of community prescription items in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60 years old, or have certain medical conditions.

“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link with the state pension age. We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”

Between 2015/16 and 2019/20, prescription charges generated over £2.8bn for the NHS, which has gone towards essential running costs for frontline services.

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