Free prescriptions for people with cancer

All NHS prescriptions are free if you live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. There are usually charges in England. But if you have cancer, you can apply for a certificate to get free prescriptions. This is called a medical exemption certificate.

How do I get a medical exemption certificate?

You qualify for an exemption certificate if you are receiving treatment for:

  • cancer
  • the effects of cancer
  • the effects of cancer treatment

You can get a form to apply for the certificate from your GP, pharmacy or cancer clinic. Your GP or hospital doctor will need to sign the form. You get the certificate within 10 days of the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) receiving your form. 

Once you have the certificate, you won't have to pay for any prescriptions. This includes medicines that aren't related to your cancer treatment. You show the certificate to the pharmacist when you go to get your medicines.

If you need to pay for any prescriptions before your exemption certificate arrives, you can get a refund. You need to ask for an FP57 refund receipt at the time you pay for the prescription. The refund receipt has details on how to get the refund. You must claim your refund within 3 months of paying for your prescription.

You might not need an exemption certificate if you are already able to get free prescriptions. For example, if you are: 

  • over 60 years old 
  • under 16 years old 
  • you are receiving certain benefits
  • you have certain other medical conditions 

Speak to your doctor, pharmacist or specialist nurse if you are not sure whether you are able to get free prescriptions. Or you can check details on the NHS website.

How long does the certificate last for?

The medical exemption certificate lasts for 5 years. You can renew it after this time if you still meet the criteria. It is important to check the date the certificate expires. If you use it after this time you could be fined up to £100.

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