Cost of living

Support with NHS costs

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

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

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

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

You are eligible for a free prescription if you:

  • are 60 or over
  • are under 16 or 16 to 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) (please see below for more information)
  • have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx) – your doctor will give you an application form
  • have a continuing physical disability that prevents you 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 (more information in the next section)

If you have a low income, the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS) could help you pay for:

NHS prescription charges

NHS dental treatment charges

the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses

the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment

NHS wigs and fabric supports (check with your hospital for their arrangements for supplying NHS wigs)

Anyone can apply as long as they do not have savings or investments over a certain limit. You cannot get help if you or your partner (or both) have more than:

  • £16,000 in savings, investments or property (not including the place where you live)
  • £23,250 in savings, investments or property if you live permanently in a care home (£24,000 if you live in Wales)

If you need more than three medications in a three month period, or more than 11 prescriptions in 12 months, a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) will help you save money.

An NHS prescription costs £9.35 per item but with a PPC, you can get all of your own NHS prescriptions, no matter how many items you need for the following costs:

  • £30.25 for 3 months
  • £108.10 for 12 months (monthly payment plan is available)

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 are pregnant, all NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment is free. It is also free for 12 months after you have given birth.

Children get free prescriptions until they are 16 years old.

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.

Medication for sexual transmitted infections (STI) and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is free of charge via 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:

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

The NHS have a useful guide on contraception methods that will help you decide the best approach to take. 

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

Specific benefits and support

Find details of specific schemes you might be eligible for below.

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. 

Find out more details

Your frequently asked questions

Under the Disabled Band Reduction Scheme, you may be eligible for the scheme if you live in a larger property than you would need if you or another occupant were not disabled.

Under a scheme for severely mental impared people, might be able to apply for a discount on your Council Tax bill if you or someone you live with is severely mentally impaired. 

Find out more here


General cost of living guidance and support

There is cost of living guidance and support available from the UK Government and local councils (boroughs). The information includes advice on debt, bills (including energy costs), as well where to seek support for your health and wellbeing in these difficult times. Some guides offer specific community level details such as where you can find food banks and warm spaces near your home.

See below for local guidance and resources provided by your borough.

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