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Who gets free NHS prescriptions or NHS dental treatment?

Don't assume you're automatically covered

Select the group that applies to you, to find out how to claim free NHS prescriptions or free or reduced NHS dental treatment:

Low income (including students and pensioners)

A low income does not automatically entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or free or reduced NHS dental treatment. You must apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme by completing an HC1 form.

How to apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme

After an assessment, depending on your financial situation you might be awarded a HC2 certificate or HC3 certificate.

HC2 certificate

This certificate will entitle you to:

  • free NHS prescriptions, NHS dental treatment, NHS sight tests and NHS wigs and fabric supports
  • help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses and help with the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment

HC3 certificate

This certificate does not entitle you to free prescriptions, but it may entitle you to:

  • help towards the cost of NHS dental treatment, NHS sight tests, travelling to receive NHS treatment, NHS wigs and fabric supports - the amount you receive will depend on your financial circumstance

At the pharmacy or dental practice

When ticking the box on the back of the prescription form or dental declaration form, check that your HC2 or HC3 certificate is still in date and has not expired.

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof, show your HC2 or HC3 certificate.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes after you get your HC2 or HC3 certificate, you must let the NHSBSA know. Contact us.

Benefits and tax credits

Benefits

If you or your partner receive any of the following benefits, you are entitled to claim free NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit with Savings Credit
  • Universal Credit – with Universal Credit you can claim free prescriptions if your earnings during the most recent assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less with a credit for either a child or a limited capability for work

If you’re under 20 and the dependent of someone receiving any of these benefits, you are entitled to claim free NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment.

At the pharmacy or dental practice

When ticking the box on the back of the prescription form or dental declaration form, check that your benefit status still entitles you to claim. A change in your circumstances may mean you no longer get the same benefits.

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof, show one of the following:

  • Income Support award letter
  • Job Seeker’s Allowance award letter
  • Employment and Support Allowance Award letter
  • Pension Credit award letter
  • Universal Credit statement

If you are under 20 you will need to show your parent or guardian’s qualifying benefit award letter that includes you as a dependent.

Find out more about benefits (GOV.UK website)

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes, you must let Jobcentre Plus know. For Pension Credit, call the Pension credit claim line

Tax credits

Tax credits do not automatically entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or free or reduced NHS dental treatment.

However, if your annual family income is £15,276 or less and you receive:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit paid together
  • Working Tax Credit including a disability element

HM Revenue and Customs will inform us and we will send you an NHS tax credit exemption certificate. You don’t need to apply.

Once you have a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate you can claim free NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment. Find out about the range of help with NHS health costs available.

At the pharmacy

When ticking the box on the back of the prescription or dental declaration form, check that your tax credit exemption certificate is still in date and has not expired.

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof, show your tax credit exemption certificate or tax credit award notice.

Find out more about Tax Credits (GOV.UK website)

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes, you must let HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) know.

Pregnant or gave birth in last 12 months

If you are pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months you are not automatically entitled to claim free NHS prescriptions. You must apply for an NHS maternity exemption certificate.

Once you have a maternity exemption certificate you can claim free NHS prescriptions.

Maternity exemption certificates are valid for 12 months after your baby’s due date or date of birth. It is your responsibility to check that it is still in date and has not expired.

How to apply for an NHS maternity exemption certificate

At the pharmacy or dental practice

When ticking the maternity exemption box on the back of the prescription form, check that your exemption certificate is still in date and has not expired.

If pharmacy staff ask for proof of your exemption, show your NHS maternity exemption certificate.

If dental practice staff ask for proof of your exemption, show a MATB1 certificate (issued by your midwife or GP) or a valid NHS maternity exemption certificate.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes after you get your NHS maternity exemption certificate, you must let the NHSBSA know. Contact us.

Specific medical conditions

Specific medical conditions do not automatically entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions. You must apply for an NHS medical exemption certificate.

Once you have a medical exemption certificate you can claim free NHS prescriptions.

Medical exemption certificates are valid for 5 years. It is your responsibility to check that it is still in date and has not expired.

What conditions entitle you to free NHS prescriptions?

If you have any of the following conditions you can apply for a medical exemption certificate:

Cancer
Including treatment for the effects of cancer or the effects of cancer treatment.

Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
If you need medication to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Diabetes insipidus
And other forms of hypopituitarism.

Epilepsy
If you need continuous anticonvulsive therapy.

A permanent fistula
Which needs continuous surgical dressing or an appliance - for example, caecostomy, colostomy, laryngostomy or ileostomy.

Hypoadrenalism
Where specific substitution therapy is essential - for example, Addison’s Disease.

Hypoparathyroidism
Which means your parathyroid glands produce too little parathyroid hormone.

Myasthenia gravis
Where an autoimmune condition affects your nerves and muscles.

Myxoedema
For example, hypothyroidism which needs thyroid hormone replacement.

How to apply for an NHS medical exemption certificate

At the pharmacy

When ticking the medical exemption box on the back of the prescription form, check that your exemption certificate is still in date and has not expired.

If pharmacy staff ask for proof, show your NHS medical exemption certificate.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes after you get your NHS medical exemption certificate, you must let the NHSBSA know. Contact us.

Continuing physical disability

If you have a continuing physical disability, which means you cannot go out without the help of another person, you can apply for an NHS medical exemption certificate.

Once you have a valid medical exemption certificate you can claim free NHS prescriptions.

Medical exemption certificates are valid for 5 years. It is your responsibility to check that it is still in date and has not expired.

If you receive Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, or Personal Independence Payment, this will not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions. You must also have a valid NHS medical exemption certificate.

How to apply for an NHS medical exemption certificate
 
At the pharmacy

When ticking the medical exemption box on the back of the prescription form, check that your exemption certificate is still in date and has not expired.

If pharmacy staff ask for proof, show your NHS medical exemption certificate.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes after you get your NHS medical exemption certificate, you must let the NHSBSA know. Contact us.

War Pension Scheme and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

If you receive War Pension Sceheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments and are under the age of 60, you can request a war pension exemption certificate from Veterans UK.

With this exemption certificate you can claim free NHS prescriptions, as long as the prescriptions are for your accepted disablement.

You may also be able to claim money back from Veterans UK for NHS dental treatment, if the treatment relates to your accepted disablement.

How to contact Veterans UK

  • Helpline: 0808 1914 218

  • Address: The Treatment Group, Veterans UK, Ministry of Defence, Norcross, Thornton, Cleveleys FY5 3WP

Find out more about war pension exemption certificates for war pensioners (GOV.UK website)

At the pharmacy

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof, show your war pension exemption certificate.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes after you get your war pension exemption certificate, you need to let Veterans UK know.

Under 16

If you are under 16 you can claim free NHS prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment.

At the pharmacy or dental practice

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof of your age, show your birth certificate, passport or medical card.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes make sure you have updated your personal details at your GP surgery and dental practice.

16,17 or 18 and in full time education

If you are 16, 17 or 18 and in full time education you can claim free NHS prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment.

At the pharmacy or dental practice

If pharmacy or dental practice staff ask for proof, show your child benefit award letter, birth certificate, passport or medical card, and proof that you are a full time student.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes you must update your personal details at your GP surgery and dental practice.

Over 60

If you are over 60 you can claim free NHS prescriptions.

At the pharmacy

If pharmacy staff ask for proof of your age, show your birth certificate, passport, driving licence or medical card.

If your personal details change

If your name or address changes you must update your personal details at your GP surgery.

Tick the right box

If you tick the wrong box on your prescription or dental declaration form, your claim won’t match your exemption details. If they don’t match, you are at risk of getting a Penalty Charge Notice.

It is your responsibility to make sure the correct box is ticked. Whether it is ticked by:

  • you
  • someone on your behalf
  • pharmacy or dental practice staff

How to get help with your NHS costs

Just answer a few questions online (this takes 5 minutes) to find out what help you could get with your NHS costs. We do not store your answers.

You may be entitled to free NHS prescriptions or NHS dental treatment, or help to pay for NHS sight tests, wigs and fabric supports.

Learn more about the range of help available for your NHS costs.