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Support for NHS costs

Photo of a piggy bank alongside an NHS logo and stethoscope

While NHS care is free, there are some things you need to pay for like prescriptions and dental costs.

There is a range of financial support available to eligible people to help with the costs of prescriptions, dental services, NHS wigs and NHS fabric support and more.

Even if you are not eligible for free prescriptions there are ways to save money on them. Read below for more information.

Find out what support you are eligible for

There's a simple way to find out if you're eligible for free NHS prescriptions and help with any other NHS costs through the NHS eligibility checker.

You are eligible for free prescriptions if you:

  • are 60 or over
  • are under 16
  • are aged between 16 and 18 and in full-time education
  • are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
  • have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx). Your doctor can give you an application form
  • have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • are a currently admitted to hospital on a doctor’s order
  • are on certain benefits or have a low income - see more information below

If you are turning or have turned 18 and are leaving care in north east London you are entitled to free NHS prescriptions until the age of 25.

This is available to all those who are eligible for Leaving Care Services from a north east London local authority, whether you still live in the area or not.

You simply need to ask your local authority Leaving Care Team to apply for a free Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) for you as long as you:

  • Are aged 18-24 years, up till your 25th birthday

  • Are a care leaver from City of London, Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest

  • Are registered with a GP

  • Not already eligible for free prescriptions

If you have low income, you may be entitled to help with prescription and other NHS costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).

The scheme covers:


You can apply for the scheme if the value of your savings, investments or property is below £23,250 for people who live permanently in a care home; or below £16,000 for everyone else. Any help you are entitled to is also available to your partner and any dependent young people.

Depending on your savings you may receive full help or partial help. You can apply online or by post.

If you need help or have questions about the LIS, call 0300 330 1343 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

A Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) could save you money if you pay for your NHS prescriptions.

The certificate covers all your NHS prescriptions for a set price. You will save money if you need more than 3 items in 3 months, or 11 items in 12 months.

Please note:


You can buy a PPC through a registered pharmacy, or online. Your PPC will be valid from the day you call or submit your application.

If you get prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), you may save more with the Hormone Replacement Therapy Prescription Prepayment Certificate (HRT PPC).

If you pay for NHS prescribed HRT medicine 3 or more times in 12 months, an HRT PPC could save you money.

The HRT PPC covers an unlimited number of certain HRT medicines for 12 months, regardless of why they are prescribed.

The HRT PPC does not cover all HRT medicines. Check if it covers your HRT medicine.

If your HRT medicine is not covered, or you also get prescriptions for items other than HRT medicine, you may save more with a 3 or 12 month PPC that covers all NHS prescriptions. See information above.

If you are pregnant, all NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment is free. They are also free for 12 months after you have given birth. To claim, ask your doctor or midwife for FW8 form, they will be able to fill the form for you.

With the online maternity exemption service you could get your certificate straight away if you have an email address. Just ask your midwife or doctor.

Otherwise, you’ll get your paper certificate in the post within 10 working days of the NHS receiving your application.

Children get free prescriptions until they are 16 years old.

Healthy start is a scheme to help eligible parents buy milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, infant formula and vitamins during pregnancy and until their child is 4 years old.

You need to be claiming certain benefits to qualify. If you’re pregnant and under 18 you can claim even if you do not receive any benefits.

You are sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops (primarily local pharmacies), and it is topped up every 4 weeks. It cannot be used for online shopping.

To find a shop that accepts Healthy Support you can search by using your location.


  • You can get Healthy Start support if you receive Universal credit and you are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old or parental responsibility for a child under 4 years old.
  • You can also apply if you get Child Tax Credit and have at least one child under 4 years old, and family income is £16,190 or less.
  • If you are under 18, and more than 10 weeks pregnant, you are eligible for Healthy Start until your baby is born.

To apply for Healthy Start Support fill out this form. You will need name, address, date of birth, national insurance number, baby due date and benefits award letter (if over 18 years old) to apply.

Medication for sexual transmitted infections (STI) and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is free of charge from your GP or a sexual health clinic. Find your nearest sexual health service.

You can get contraception free of charge, even if you’re under 16, from:

  • most contraception clinics
  • most sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • some GP surgeries
  • some young people’s services

Methods of contraception available for free includes diaphragm or capfemale condomsimplant, injectionIUD (coil), IUS (hormonal coil), male condomspatchprogestogen-only pillvaginal ring.

The emergency contraceptive pill, also known as morning after pill, is also available free of charge at:

  • contraception clinics

  • sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics

  • some GP surgeries

  • some young people’s clinics

  • most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units

  • most pharmacies


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