Do people living with diabetes qualify for free NHS prescriptions in England?

Prescription and medication

It can be difficult to know whether you’re entitled to free prescriptions, especially if you could potentially be exempt for a few reasons. However, did you know that if you are prescribed insulin or other medicines to manage your diabetes, you are entitled to free NHS prescriptions?

We’re here to give you a little more information about how you can claim your free prescriptions in England and, if you don’t use medication to manage your diabetes, how you might still be able to make use of prescription charge exemptions.

How do I claim my NHS medical exemption certificate?

If you take medications for your diabetes, you could get a medical exemption certificate provided by NHS England, also known as an NHS exemption card.

What do I need to know about a medical exemption certificate?

  • It entitles you to free NHS prescriptions only
  • It doesn’t cover dental treatment or help with other health costs
  • It should be shown when you collect a prescription
  • It is valid for five years (or until your 60th birthday, whichever is sooner)
  • It will fall under the option of ‘has a valid medical exemption certificate’ on your prescription

If you’re entitled to a medical exemption certificate, your doctor will give you an application form. However, if this is not the case and you think you might be entitled to one, please contact your GP.

Find out more from the NHS.

Person with medication

Can I get free prescriptions if I don’t use medicines to manage my diabetes?

If you’re not prescribed insulin or other medicines to manage your diabetes, you will not be able to apply for a medicine exemption certificate (unless you have another medical condition which means you’re exempt). However, there are other exemptions which mean your NHS prescriptions could still be free. Some examples for NHS in England include:

  • Age – If you are over 60
  • Are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • Hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • If you receive Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Read the full NHS prescription exemption list on the NHS website.

Please note that the age bracket of over 60 years of age may change to over 66 in the near future. So, if you’re between the age of 60 and 66 and not exempt for any other reason than your age, you may start having to pay for your prescriptions if this change is made. However, if you’re on medication for diabetes, or have any other exemptions, this age change will not affect you as you’re exempt for other reasons.

Please note that the Government consultation to increase the age bracket from 60 to 66 is still in process and for now, the age bracket remains at over 60 to be able to get a free prescription. Find out more and find updates on Gov.uk.

How can I check if I’m entitled to free NHS prescriptions?

If you would like to check whether you’re entitled to an NHS prescription exemption, you can check using NHS’ easy prescription exemption checker. However, if you’re ever in doubt, please get in touch with your GP for further questions and any advice on applying for a medical exemption certificate.

At Spirit Pharmacy we’re here to help people who live with diabetes get access to their medicines, helpful items, and expert advice. We offer a friendly free NHS home prescription delivery, alongside lots of additional services and support, plus a free Live Well With Diabetes welcome pack with your first delivery. 

Please note, this article is not intended to be individual healthcare advice. Always follow specific advice relating to your condition given to you by your doctor, pharmacist, diabetic nurse, or dietician.

*Information correct at time of issue – January 2022

Card image cap

Blood sugar levels: Doctor Q&A

Our Medical Director, Richard, has taken some time to outline what your levels of blood sugar should be, and how this can affect your body.

Read more
Card image cap

How does diabetes affect your feet? Doctor Q&A

Our Medical Director, Richard, has taken some time to outline the key points of how diabetes can affect your feet.

Read more
Card image cap

Blood Glucose Levels: Hypoglycaemia vs. Hyperglycaemia

Understanding the difference between hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, the symptoms you might experience, and how to treat them is very important. This blog is here to help you understand just this.

Read more