That age-old question: do students pay for prescriptions?
You’ve made the journey to university, you’re settling in, making memories and mates. But then your tonsils swell up over winter and your mum isn’t on hand with the Lemsip, what do you do then?
Here’s everything you need to know about if students pay for prescriptions, which prescriptions are free and who is eligible for free prescriptions.
- What is a prescription?
- Do UK students pay for prescriptions?
- Do uni students pay for prescriptions?
- How much are prescriptions?
- Are antidepressants free?
- Is contraception free?
- Are STI tests free?
- What should you do if you can’t afford a prescription?
- HC2 certificate explained
- Who gets free prescriptions?
Do students pay for prescriptions?
What is a prescription?
A prescription is a letter you will get from your doctor that can be taken to a pharmacy in exchange for medication. When you visit a GP or hospital you will normally get given a prescription that needs to be signed off by a doctor, which will instruct you on what medication you need and what dosage you need.
Some examples of when you may need a prescription are if you have severe allergies or if you need antibiotics or contraception.
Do students pay for prescriptions in England?
In England, if you are aged 16-18 and in full education, you can get all prescriptions for free. This means that if you’re in sixth form or college or your first year of uni you will not have to pay.
However, once you are 19+ you will have to pay for most medications unless you’re exempt. Exemptions include those with disabilities, people who are receiving benefits or have a low income and all contraception products are also free.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland prescriptions are free, it is only in England where you will have to pay once you’re over 19.
Do uni students in England pay for prescriptions?
No, if you’re in England, uni students do not get free prescriptions, unless you’re 18 and under. Once you’re over 19 you’ll have to pay for your prescriptions regardless of whether you’re in uni or not. For Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students studying in England, you can get an exemption card allowing you to continue receiving free prescriptions while in England.
How much are prescriptions in England?
The current prescription charge in England is £9.65 per item. If you have a repeat prescription you can buy a prepayment certificate allowing you to pay for 3 or 12 months upfront. A 3-month pre-payment certificate costs £31.25 while a 12-month one costs £111.60.
Are prescriptions free in Scotland?
Yes, prescriptions in Scotland are free. Prescription forms from Wales, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man will be dispensed for free in Scotland, too.
Are prescriptions free in Wales?
Yes, prescriptions are free in Wales.
Are prescriptions free in Northern Ireland?
Yes, prescriptions are free in NI.
Are antidepressants free?
No, in England antidepressants are not free, you’ll have to pay the standard charge of £9.65 per prescription. This means you will most likely have to pay monthly for as long as you need your medication. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where there are no charges for prescriptions, antidepressants are free.
Is contraception free?
Yes, contraception is free on the NHS across the UK. Contraceptive methods such as the contraceptive pill, IUDs, the contraceptive patch or the injection are free and all appointments with nurses or doctors are confidential. If you choose a method of contraception such as an IUD or the implant, these can be fitted and removed for free by a nurse at your local GP surgery or sexual health clinic and this includes for under 16s.
While condoms themselves are not free, you can normally get them for free from a sexual health clinic or sign up for a free C card which allows all under 25s free condoms.
Is the contraceptive pill free?
Yes, the contraceptive pill is free. There are lots of different types of contraceptive pills including the combined pill or progestogen-only pill and commonly prescribed brand names include Microgynon, Rigevidon, Yasmin and Cerazette.
Are STI tests free?
Yes, STI tests are free on the NHS. You can visit your local sexual health clinic to take a test or for some STIs that only require a urine sample or swab, you can order them to your home and send them off for testing.
What should you do if you can’t afford a prescription?
If you can’t afford a prescription, there are several instances where you can receive an exemption. For example, if you are receiving benefits or have a low income you can apply for help with paying, or may be eligible to receive free prescriptions. Pregnant or recently pregnant women are also eligible for free prescriptions for 12 months after giving birth. If you are struggling financially, reach out to your university guidance team to see if there’s any way the university can support you financially.
HC2 certificate explained – FULL help with health costs
A HC2 certificate is an exception certificate that you can apply for to help you with health costs, such as paying for prescriptions. If you have a HC2 certificate, you’ll get free prescriptions, free NHS dental and sight treatment as well as help with covering the costs of glasses, contact lenses and travelling to and from NHS doctor appointments. You can check if you are eligible here.
HC3 certificates – LIMITED help with health costs
If you apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme and receive an HC3 certificate for limited help with health costs, your certificate will tell you how much help you can get. The HC3 also applies to things like NHS dental treatment, glasses and eye tests, prescriptions and more.
Who gets free prescriptions?
In England, you are entitled to free prescriptions if you meet certain prescription exemptions. You are eligible for free prescriptions in England if:
- You are under 16
- You are 16-18 and in full-time education
- You are over 60
- You are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
- You have a specified medical condition and an exemption certificate
- You are receiving benefits or have a valid HC2 certificate
- You have an ongoing physical disability that prevents you from going out without the assistance of another person
You can see the full list of exceptions here.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there is no prescription charge and they are free for everyone.