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Maternity exemption certificates

If you’re pregnant or have had a baby within the last 12 months, you’re automatically entitled to free NHS dental treatment but you need a valid maternity exemption certificate to get free NHS prescriptions.

A maternity exemption certificate:

  • entitles you to free NHS prescriptions
  • can be used to prove your entitlement to free NHS dental treatment
  • is valid for 12 months after your baby's due date or date of birth 
  • should be shown when you collect a prescription

It’s your responsibility to check the expiry date, and if you claim free prescriptions after your certificate expires, you could have to pay a penalty charge of up to £100.

How to apply

You can apply for a maternity exemption certificate as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed. Speak to your midwife, doctor or health visitor to apply.

You should expect to receive your certificate within 10 working days of us receiving your application. 

Your certificate will be valid from one month before the date that we receive your application and its expiry date will be one year from your due date or 12 months after the birth of your baby.

If your baby is born later than expected, the expiry date can be extended.

Refund of prescription charges

If you have applied for a maternity exemption certificate and pay prescription charges while waiting for it to arrive, you can get a refund as long as:

  • you ask for an FP57 refund receipt when you pay (you can’t get one later)
  • the start date of your medical exemption certificate is the same or earlier than the date you pay for your prescription. Certificates are backdated one month from the date that we receive your application. They can’t be backdated any further.

You must claim your refund within three months of paying. The FP57 refund receipt tells you what to do.

Replacement certificates

If you lose or damage your certificate, we can send you a replacement. You will receive your replacement certificate within 10 working days.

Contact us

Change of name or address

If your address changes, please contact us so we can update our records.

If your name changes, we will update your certificate. You will need to send us your existing certificate, plus one of the following:

  • a copy of your marriage certificate
  • a copy of your civil partnership certificate
  • a copy of your deed poll
  • a copy of your passport
  • a copy of your Decree Absolute

Our address is:

NHS Help with Health Costs
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN 

Miscarriage or stillbirth

If you miscarry or your baby is stillborn, you can continue to use your certificate for free NHS prescriptions until it expires. However, you may need to pay NHS dental charges.

Extending your certificate

The expiry date on your certificate is based on the due date or date of birth provided by your midwife or doctor.

If your baby is born later than its expected due date, we can extend the expiry date.

You will need to write to us, including a copy of your baby’s birth certificate, at:

NHS Help with Health Costs
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN 

Digital maternity exemption certificates

We’re currently piloting digital maternity exemption certificates with a small group of midwives and their patients in Newcastle upon Tyne and Hexham, Northumberland. Patients who are taking part in the pilot will receive a digital certificate by email, rather than a plastic card through the post.

Guide for patients taking part in the pilot

Information for dental practice, pharmacy and dispensing GP practice staff

When you ask to see a patient’s maternity exemption certificate, the patient may present a digital version of the certificate instead of a plastic card. It could be on the screen of their smartphone or a printed copy, and it will include the patient’s name and an expiry date.

It’s your responsibility to ask to see evidence of a valid certificate. If the patient says that they have a digital certificate but can’t show it for any reason, you can indicate ‘evidence not seen’ on the patient declaration. If patients have any problems accessing the certificate on their device, they should report the problem to us by emailing nhsbsa.matexdigitisationteam@nhs.net.