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Penalty charges - don't get caught out

  • Are you about to leave full time education?
     
  • Do you have a long term medical condition?
     
  • Has your name or address changed?
     
  • Do you receive benefits?

Changes to your situation may affect whether you can get free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment.

Find out if you are exempt and what to do if you need an exemption certificate.

Benefits and tax credit confusion

These benefits do not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment

  • Contribution-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
    There are two types of Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Contribution-based JSA does not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment.
     
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
    There are two types of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Contribution-based ESA does not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment.
     
  • Pension Credit Savings Credit
    There are two types of Pension Credit. Pensions Credit Savings Credit does not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment.
     
  • Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance
    These benefits do not entitle you to claim free NHS prescriptions. You must have a valid NHS medical exemption certificate

Not sure which type of benefit you get?

To find out which type of benefit you get, you can:

Find out if your benefit means you’re eligible for free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment before you tick an exemption box.

Tax credit exemption certificates are valid for 7 months only

You may have been sent a Tax Credit exemption certificate. This certificate will entitle you to free NHS prescriptions and dental treatment for 7 months only.

If you do not receive a new certificate at the end of the 7 months, this means that you are no longer eligible.

Don’t continue to claim free prescriptions or dental treatment once your certificate has expired. You could face a penalty charge of up to £100, as well as the original charges.     

How to avoid penalty charges

1. Update your personal details

Make sure that your GP surgery, dental practice, benefits organisations and the NHSBSA have your correct name and address.

If these details are out of date you may be sent a Penalty Charge Notice, even if you are entitled to free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment.

Update your NHSBSA details.

2. 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. When these details 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 who complete the back of the prescription

3. Check which benefit you are on

Check whether your benefit entitles you to get free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment before you tick an exemption box.

To find out which type of benefit you get, you can:

4. Make sure your NHS exemption certificate or prescriptions prepayment certificate is valid

If you have an NHS medical exemption or maternity exemption, a tax credit exemption, or a prescription prepayment certificate, make sure the certificate is still valid.

Check the expiry date and renew it when it expires. If your certificate has expired, do not continue to claim. 

5. Don't claim if you are no longer eligible

If your circumstances change and you are no longer eligible to claim free NHS prescriptions or dental treatment, do not continue to claim.

You could face a penalty charge of up to £100, as well as the original prescription charges.

If you're unsure - pay, get a receipt and claim a refund

At the pharmacy or dental practice

If you are unsure whether you're entitled to free NHS prescriptions or free or reduced NHS dental treatment, pay for your prescription or dental treatment and get a receipt.

If you later find out that you didn't have to pay (you were exempt), you can claim a refund. 

You can only claim a refund within 3 months of the date you paid.

For NHS prescriptions

1. Ask for a receipt
When you pay for your prescription ask the pharmacy staff for a FP57 refund receipt. You won't be able to get one later.

2. Claim a refund
Take your FP57 refund receipt to any community pharmacy. You will need to show evidence that you were entitled to free NHS prescriptions at the time you paid (such as a benefit award letter). The pharmacy will refund you. You must do this within 3 months of the date that you paid.

For NHS dental treatment

1. Complete a form
Download a refund form or order one online.

2. Claim a refund
Follow the instructions on the form. You must claim a refund within 3 months of the date that you paid.