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The free healthcare services available to you

From a prescription subscription service, to reminders about what free healthcare services are available to you, Dr Philipa is here to help you and your family stay healthy for less this winter. Here are Dr Philipa's top tips:

Ditch brands... most of the time they are the same

  • Buying from supermarkets and cheaper shops will save you loads and the medicine is exactly the same - e.g. cold and flu tablets, painkillers, hayfever tablets, allergy tablets, indigestion tablets

Prescribed something simple?... Check if over-the-counter is cheaper

  • In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, prescriptions are free, but in England, every prescribed medicine costs £9.35 per medicine. If it's just a one off, and not a large prescription over multiple months, you might want to ask the pharmacist if it's cheaper to buy over the counter.

People entitled to a free prescription in England

  • 60 and over, under 16, 16-18 and in full-time education, those who are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, those with specified medical conditions and more. 

  • You're also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partner) receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving: 

    Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or Universal Credit. 

  • Prescriptions are also free for anything related to cancer (5 years at a time), thyroid issues, epilepsy, diabetes and other medical conditions.

How can you save money if you don't qualify for free prescriptions?

  • If you live in England and do not qualify for free prescriptions, you can buy a prescription prepayment certificate. 

  • You can pay a prescription subscription for either 3 or 12 months, which can save you loads if you are frequently needing to buy prescriptions. 

    - A 3-month certificate costs £30.25 

    - A 1-year certificate costs you £108.10 

    - You can spread the cost over 10 months that's just £10.81 per month

  • This will save you money if you need more than 3 prescriptions in 3 months or more than 11 prescriptions in a year. Someone who gets 2 prescriptions a month, for the year, would save more than £100. 

  • You can buy the certificate online from GOV.UK. Or you can buy it over the phone using a credit or debit card. 

What other healthcare services might you get free if you're eligible?

Eye care

  • Scotland is the only country in the UK to provide free universal NHS funded eye examinations. These are available to anyone ordinarily resident in the UK and to eligible overseas visitors. In some cases, the NHS will also give an optical voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses. 

  • Throughout the rest of the UK, only certain groups are entitled to free tests. 

  • These include: under 16s, 60 and overs, registered as partially sighted or blind, have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma and more.


  • You can get a free hearing test on the NHS. A GP may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist) who can do the test, or there are often hearing test services in pharmacies and opticians. 

  • Boots is an example of somewhere that offers free hearing tests. 

  • There are also online hearing tests that can help you determine if there is a problem.

NHS dentistry

  • You do not have to pay for NHS dental services if you're: under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education, pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges), receiving low income benefits, or you're under 20 and a dependant of someone receiving low income benefits.

Help buying fruit, veg, vitamins and milk though the healthy start scheme?

  • The Healthy Start Scheme is a programme which helps pregnant women and new mothers who are on a low income, to buy fruit, veg, vitamins and milk. *It is available to those who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4. 

  • Your family's monthly 'take-home pay for this period' must be £408 or less, and you must be on Universal Credit or certain other benefits. 

  • If you're pregnant and under 18, you can claim even if you do not receive any benefits. 

  • The scheme only runs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a similar scheme in Scotland - Best Start Foods. 

  • When you apply, you'll be sent a Healthy Start Card with money added every 4 weeks. You can use your card to buy: Plain liquid cow's milk and Infant formula. Fresh, frozen and tinned fruit, vegetables and pulses. Vitamins 

  • Apply at the NHS Healthy Start website.

You might qualify for a free jab

  • Remember to check with your GP or on the NHS website about which vaccinations you may be eligible for. This could be a Covid-19 booster, the Flu jab, - both of which are extremely important going into the winter months!

The UK's different nations have different rules and practices when it comes to health. In Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, you'll find many of the things we're talking about today are already available for free - but there will again be some regional differences.

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