MSE reveals almost one million people in England overpaid for NHS prescriptions last year

Almost one million people in England overpaid for NHS prescriptions in the 12 months to April 2023 because they had not bought a prescription 'season ticket', figures exclusively obtained by (MSE) show.

Officially known as a 'prescription prepayment certificate' (PPC), these cover the cost of all prescriptions over a specific period for a set price. Currently, a three-month PPC costs £31.25 and a 12-month certificate is £111.60. The current prescription price is £9.65, which means a 12-month PPC can save people money if they buy 12 or more prescriptions.

Yet a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the UK’s biggest consumer website to the NHS Business Services Authority (which manages NHS finances) showed in the 2022/23 financial year, 952,874 people in England missed out on combined savings of £39.5 million – working out to be around £42 each – after paying for 16 items on average without a season ticket.

It also showed 2,901,587 PPCs were purchased in total in the 12 months to April 2023 – including both annual and three-month versions.

Prescription charges usually increase in line with inflation in April, so those considering purchasing a PPC should do so before then – though increases for 2024/25 are yet to be confirmed.

Martin Lewis, founder of, said: "We need to spread the word to anyone in England who regularly gets prescriptions – including some with chronic illnesses – to check out prepayment certificates.

"And do it sooner rather than later; there's still a chance the price of these season tickets may rise in April. If so, doing it now would mean you pay less for longer.

"My simple rule of thumb is if you get more than one prescription a month on average, a prepayment certificate is the cheapest option as it caps what you pay. They give you unlimited prescriptions for either three months or a year. For someone using an average of two prescriptions a month, it'd be a £120 saving and it'd reduce the worry if you needed more, as you wouldn't have to shell out more."

Some qualify for an exemption and can avoid paying for a prescription entirely

Before buying a prescription 'season ticket', check first if paying for one is necessary. The NHS has an eligibility checker tool online.

How to buy a prescription season ticket

A season ticket can be bought online, over the phone on 0300 330 1341, or at many pharmacies. It can be paid for by card or in ten instalments by direct debit (for 12-month PPCs).

And if people have bought prescriptions while waiting for the season ticket to arrive, an NHS FP57 refund form can be used to get the money back (they’re available from the pharmacy or dispensary).

See MSE's Cheap and free prescriptions guide to find out how to make more health-related savings. For some prescribed medication, such as painkillers or dermatology creams, it can often be cheaper to buy them over the counter rather than by prescription, so check before making a purchase.


Notes to Editors:

  • Prescriptions remain free of charge for those residing in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.