Prescription charges for people with cystic fibrosis

There are no prescription charges for people living in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but in England many people with cystic fibrosis (CF) still have to pay for their prescriptions. Here, you can find out about prescription charges and apply for a grant to cover the cost of your first prepayment certificate.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are no prescription charges. This means no-one in those countries pays for their prescriptions.

In England many people with cystic fibrosis (CF) still have to pay for their prescriptions.

How do prescription charges work?

In England you have to pay for all your prescriptions unless you are exempt. If you are exempt, you will not have to pay for any of your prescriptions, no matter what they are for.

If you do have to pay, there are two ways you can do this:

  • Paying for single items, which can be bought when you need them
  • Buying a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), which covers the costs of all of your prescriptions for three or 12 months. This option is cheaper if you need lots of prescriptions during that time.

How much are prescription charges in England?

The prescription charges in England have increased since 2020. As of 1 April 2021 they are:

  • Single prescription: £9.35
  • Three-month prepayment certificate: £30.25
  • 12-month prepayment certificate: £108.10

Why do people with CF in England have to pay prescription charges?

In the UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own rules on healthcare. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are no prescription charges but in England most people still need to pay for their prescriptions.

Children in England don’t pay for prescriptions, but adults do unless they have certain medical conditions. A list of exempt medical conditions was written by the government over 50 years ago in 1968. At that time children with CF weren’t expected to live to be adults – it was thought of as a children's condition – so CF wasn’t put on this list. Although in the UK there are now more adults than children living with CF, the Government has never updated the list of exempt conditions.

What is a prescription prepayment certificate?

A prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) lets you get as many NHS prescriptions as you need for a set price. A PPC costs £30.25 for three months and £108.10 for 12 months.

A PPC can be bought:

  • Online
  • From a pharmacy registered to sell PPCs.
  • By telephone on 0300 330 1341. You will need your debit card or credit card details if you want to pay in full. You will need your bank or building society account details if you are paying for a 12-month PPC by Direct Debit.
  • By post - complete the application form FP95 which is available online, in pharmacies and doctors' surgeries.

Can the Cystic Fibrosis Trust cover the cost of my PPC?

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust can offer a one-off grant for your first 12-months PPC. For more information about this and other grants provided by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, please contact the Helpline 0300 373 1000 or visit at our grants page.

Could I be exempt from prescription charges?

People over 60 or under 16 years of age don’t have to pay for their prescriptions.

People aged 16-18 and in full time education also don’t have to pay but may need to show proof they are in full time education.

One condition on the list of exempt conditions is diabetes. If you have CF and diabetes, all your prescriptions are free.

In England, there are several reasons you might be able to get your prescriptions for free:

  • If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. Your partner and children will also get to free prescriptions if they are included in your benefit award.
  • If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit. This would depend on your income.
  • If you are getting Universal Credit. This would depend on how much you earnt in your most recent assessment period. You can have free prescriptions if your earnings during that period were
    • £435 or less
    • £935 or less if your Universal Credit includes an element for either a child, or limited capability for work.

There are other reasons people may not have to pay for their prescriptions and are exempt, these include some medical conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, those still in higher education or those too ill to work. Pregnant women and those who have had a baby within the last 12 months also don’t pay if they have a maternity exemption certificate. Ask your doctor, midwife or health visitor how to apply

NHS Low Income Scheme

If you are not exempt from paying prescription charges, you might still be able to get help from the NHS Low Income Scheme (this includes students and pensioners). This scheme can help with the cost of prescriptions and other NHS charges.

This eligibility checker takes three minutes to use and will help you find out if you should apply for the scheme.

Find out more about how to apply here.

Please check if you can get help from the NHS Low Income Scheme before you apply to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust for a PPC grant.

What is the Government’s position on prescription charges?

In April 2021, Kerry McCarthy MP asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government plans to review the list of conditions for exemption from prescription charges; and planned to make an assessment of the potential merits of including (a) cystic fibrosis and (b) other life-long medical conditions in that list.

The Government responded by stating that they have no plans to review or extend the prescription charge medical exemptions list. 

The Government added that approximately 89% of prescriptions are dispensed free of charge and extensive arrangements are already in place to help people, including those with cystic fibrosis and other life-long medical conditions. 
The government advise those who do not qualify for an exemption, to purchase a prescription pre-payment certificate. 

Read the full ministerial response from the government in here

What is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s position on prescription charges?

We believe that all adults with CF should get all their prescriptions for free, wherever they live in the UK, for these reasons:

  • Cystic fibrosis is a life-shortening condition and daily medication is essential. Adults with CF are often economically disadvantaged by their condition. Paying prescription charges makes this worse.
  • There is a danger that adults with CF will not take their essential medicines if they are in financial difficulty.
  • Cystic fibrosis meets the exemption criteria set out by the British Medical Association and accepted by the Government in 1968.
  • People with similar or less-serious conditions are exempt from prescription charges whilst people with CF are not. We think this is unfair.

We are part of the Prescription Charges Coalition (PCC). This is a group of over 50 organisations campaigning to end unfair prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions. The PCC actively campaigns on this issue and has published reports on prescription charges which can be found on their website.

In spring 2021, in response to the latest rise in prescription charge costs, the PCC launched a social media campaign #reviewthelist calling on the government to review the medical exemptions list for free prescriptions. 

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