In most of the UK prescriptions are free, but unluckily for those in England, many have to pay, and the cost has just risen by 20p to £7.85. This is a flat fee, meaning you’ll pay £7.85 regardless of what medicine has been prescribed to you, although this excludes certain things like contraceptives and those administered to you personally in a hospital, walk-in centre or at your GP. Be sure you’re aware if you’re one of those lucky enough to qualify for free prescriptions. If you’re under 16 or over 60 you automatically pay nothing, or if you’re under 18 but still in full time education. You also qualify if you’re pregnant or had a baby in the last year, although you will need a valid exemption certificate to prove this. If you receive certain benefits, such as Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or ESA then you also can get your prescriptions for free, or if you have a war pension exemption certificate. If you have an ongoing chronic illness or a severe disability or illness then you may also be able to get a Medical Exemption Certificate that excludes you from paying for your medications, so speak to your doctor if you feel you may qualify.

If you don’t meet any of these criteria but still get regular prescriptions, it would probably be cheaper for you to purchase a prepay certificate upfront instead of paying for your prescriptions individually. For a 3 month prepaid pass you would pay £29.10, so if you use 4 or more prescriptions over 3 months then you would definitely save money. If your condition is ongoing then it makes sense to get a longer certificate and save more in the long-term. To get a prepaid certificate simply apply on the NHS prescriptions website; you can even pay by direct debit.

For some medications or creams that your doctor prescribes, it may actually be cheaper to buy them over the counter in the shop rather than taking the doctor’s prescription. Certain creams used for eczema or allergies may cost far less over the counter than the standard £7.85 prescription fee, so be sure to check before you pay out. For other medicines that you take over a long period of time its better to have the benefit of getting them in bulk from your doctor rather than buying smaller boxes over the counter and paying individually. It may even be cheaper to use a service like Readies then buy medicine in bulk. If it’s a medication that you take frequently or over a long period of time, you might want to consider simply asking your doctor to prescribe you a larger amount at a time. Some doctors automatically write a script for a small amount, but you can get more if they agree to it and pay the same £7.85 that you have been paying for less. This will obviously only work if the medication is safe and non-addictive. Another rule of thumb for saving cash on medicines is to ignore the marketing ploy that insists its necessary to overspend on branded medicines. Generic or supermarket versions of your regularly used painkillers usually contain exactly the same active ingredient as the well-marketed name brand version but for a fraction of the cost.

Some people like to try out online pharmacies as a cheaper alternative to their usual high street pharmacies. This can be an effective money saving tactic, but be sure to be safe and cautious. Check that the website is registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council before ordering anything so that you’re positive it’s not illegal. Make sure they ask for a prescription and ask questions about your condition; it’s illegal not to do so, so if they’re skipping this crucial step they’re probably not to be trusted. Finally, some companies might be selling the medicine for a discounted price because it’s near its expiry date, so check the dates on the label before you put anything in your mouth! 

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