Revealed: More than 800,000 missing out on cheaper NHS prescriptions

Hundreds of thousands of patients in England are paying more than they need to for NHS prescriptions and could save an average of almost £50 a year by getting a prescription prepayment certificate. This is according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the UK’s biggest consumer website,

A prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) works a bit like a season ticket – you pay once for 3 or 12 months and then get free prescriptions for the period covered.

In the 2016/17 financial year, prescription items cost £8.40. Yet an NHS PPC costs £104 for 12 months, so anybody paying for 13 or more items could have saved at least £5.20 by buying one.

Figures disclosed by the NHS Business Services Authority(1) under the Freedom of Information Act show that 825,677 people in England paid for 13 or more prescription items in the 2016/17 financial year. On average(2), these patients paid for 18 prescriptions, and could have saved £47.20 a year.

Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at, said: "These stats show that a huge number of patients are paying more than they need to for medicine prescribed on the NHS - and in many cases could save almost £50 over the course of a year.

"If you’re going to need 13 or more items on prescription in the course of a year and you don't qualify for free prescriptions, the season ticket is certainly worth it. And while of course not everyone will know from the outset how many prescriptions they'll need, it's clear many are missing out on savings.

"To be fair many pharmacists and GPs do tell patients they can save using this scheme, but it's clear there's still a lack of awareness. The NHS should do whatever it can to publicise this scheme to patients who can use it to pay less."


Notes to editors

(1) used the Freedom of Information Act to request figures for the number of people in England who paid for more than 12 prescription items in a year.(In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this doesn't apply as prescriptions are free, and some also qualify for free prescriptions in England, for example if you're under 16, 60 or over or pregnant - see a full list of exemptions).

The NHS Business Services Authority, which oversees prescription charging and prescription prepayment certificates, gave the following figures:

Patients (aged 16-59) paying for 13 or more prescription items in a financial year


Number of patients

Total prescription items bought*







*By those who paid for 13 or more prescriptions.

(2) The average among those who paid for more than 12 prescriptions in a year.

For more information, see’s 22 Medicine Savings guide or read the news story in full.

For more comments, please contact:
Katie Watts
Tel: 020 3846 2631
Mob: 07875 415 378

About Martin Lewis: Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is the journalist and consumer campaigner who created and is now the site’s Executive Chair. Martin also founded and chairs the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute charity.

He’s the UK’s most-googled man, Citizens Advice’s Consumer Champion of the Year, and has spearheaded major financial justice campaigns including bank charges reclaiming (over seven million template letters downloaded), PPI reclaiming (over six million) and a successful large-scale campaign to get financial education in schools. He has his own prime-time ITV programme, The Martin Lewis Money Show, as well as a range of other regular media slots. He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2014.

About is dedicated to cutting consumers’ bills and fighting their corner. The free-to-use consumer finance help resource aims to show people how to save money on anything and everything, and campaigns for financial justice. It was set up in 2003 for just £100, and its free-to-use, ethical stance quickly made it the UK’s biggest independent money website, according to internet ranking site, and the number one ‘Business and Finance – Business Information’ site, according to Hitwise. It has more than 12 million people opted-in to receive the weekly MSE’s Money Tips email, and more than 16 million unique monthly site users who visit more than 28 million times a month. In September 2012, it joined the Group PLC.