Martin Lewis urges people to check whether they could save on prescription costs

More than a million people in England could have saved money by using an annual prepayment certificate in 2020/21, according to MoneySavingExpert.com.

21 February 2022

More than one million people in England paid more than they needed to for prescriptions in the year to April 2021, according to MoneySavingExpert.com.

On average, they missed out on savings of around £40 – because a certificate could have capped their costs.

MoneySavingExpert said people can buy an NHS prescription “season ticket” which would enable them to save money typically if they tend to pay for more than one prescription per month.

MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis is urging people with more than one prescription a month – including those with chronic conditions – to check the savings they could potentially be making.

It obtained the figures from the NHS Business Services Authority via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Martin Lewis
Consumer champion Martin Lewis said it is frustrating to hear that many people are still paying more than they need to (Steve Parsons/PA)

In total, 1,063,648 people paid for at least 12 prescriptions in the 2020/21 financial year, with 16 being purchased on average.

At the time, an annual season ticket – called a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), which covers the cost of all pharmacy-dispensed medication for one year – cost £106, while a single prescription cost £9.15.

This left patients in England who paid each time overspending by £40 on average over the year – totalling £43 million – the consumer help website said.

It said these season tickets are worth checking now as prescription and PPC prices tend to rise each April, although the costs for the 2022/23 financial year have not been announced yet.

Patients can buy a PPC by card or direct debit on the NHS Business Services Authority website or by calling 0300 330 1341. A PPC can also be purchased in person at many pharmacies.

The number of people who could have saved buying an annual PPC has risen steadily for each of the past six years. It is the third year running that more than one million patients could have saved money using one, MoneySavingExpert said.

The FOI data also revealed that there were 2,456,160 PPCs purchased in total in the 2020/21 financial year, including both annual and three-month applications.

Mr Lewis said: “England is the only one of the four UK nations that charges for prescriptions, and so it’s frustrating to hear that many people are still paying more than they need to.

“We need to spread the word to anyone who regularly gets prescriptions – including some with chronic illnesses – to check out prepayment certificates.

“These season tickets cap what you need to pay, as for a one-off payment, you get unlimited prescriptions for either three months or a year.

“My simple rule of thumb is if you get more than one prescription a month on average – these are the cheapest way. And someone getting, say, two prescriptions a month would save over £100 a year.”

In April 2021, prescription costs rose to £9.35 and annual PPC costs rose to £108.10. Alternatively, a three-month season ticket costs £30.25, which could save someone cash if they buy four or more prescriptions during that time.

MoneySavingExpert said patients should always check first if they qualify for an exemption to avoid paying entirely. The NHS has an online tool to check entitlement, including those who receive tax credits or are pregnant.

A cheap and free prescriptions guide is also available on MoneySavingExpert.com’s website.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Approximately 89% of prescription items are dispensed for free in England and we estimate that around 60% of people are not charged for them.

“Prescription pre-payment certificates are available to help people in England who need frequent prescriptions and who are not exempt from charges. We encourage all those who may be eligible to consider using a PPC to save money on their prescriptions.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.