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Changes to the maternity exemption certificate

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is responsible for administering the maternity exemption certificate, which entitles pregnant women and new mothers to free NHS prescriptions. It can also be used to prove their entitlement to free NHS dental treatment.

Currently, the certificate is a white plastic card that we issue on receipt of a paper application form signed by the patient’s midwife. We’re currently working towards digitising this process, to improve the patient experience.

We have worked closely with patients and midwives to develop digital versions of both the application form and the certificate. From next week, we’ll be piloting the new process with a small group of midwives and their patients (approx. 250) in Newcastle upon Tyne and Hexham, Northumberland.

What this means for pharmacy, dispensing GP practice and dental practice staff

When claiming free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment, patients may present the digital version of the maternity exemption 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. Certificates are valid for one year after the baby’s due date or date of birth, if the patient does not apply until after the baby is born. It is most likely that digital certificates will be presented at pharmacies in and around Newcastle and Hexham, but it’s possible that these patients could visit a pharmacy or dental practice anywhere in the country.

The pharmacy or practice staff are required to ask to see evidence of a valid certificate. If the patient has a digital certificate but can’t show it for any reason, the pharmacy or practice staff should indicate on the patient declaration form that no evidence of entitlement has been seen. If patients have any problems accessing the certificate on their device, they should report the problem to the NHSBSA by calling 0191 203 5695 or emailing

Next steps

The pilot is expected to last for two months from 16 January, although certificates issued as part of the pilot will continue to be used until their expiry dates (which could be up until December 2018). We’ll then use feedback from the patients, midwives, pharmacy and dental practice staff and other healthcare professionals involved in the pilot to refine the new process before rolling it out more widely, so if you have any comments please call 0191 203 5695 or email