Diabetes Prescriptions

For free prescriptions in England, you will need a current Medical Exemption Certificate
For free prescriptions in England, you will need a current Medical Exemption Certificate

Exemption certificates for prescriptions are available for those people who take insulin or medication to control their diabetes.

This type of certificate lasts for a 5 year period, and people with diabetes can apply using a form from their doctor or from the Post Office.

However, people that use diet to control their diabetes and do not need medication will not be granted a Medical Exemption Certificate unless they meet other criteria.

How do I get free prescriptions?

To get free prescriptions, people with diabetes in England must:

  • Be aged 18 to 60
  • Be prescribed medication to manage their diabetes
  • Have a valid and current Medical Exemption Certificate.

People in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland qualify for free prescriptions regardless of how their diabetes is treated

How do I get a Medical Exemption Certificate?

You should always be told by either your GP or your pharmacy if you are eligible for free medication, but it is up to you to find out if you are entitled to a Medical Exemption Certificate.  

You need to obtain and fill in an FP92A application form from your doctor, filling in parts one and two and ensuring an authorised member of the surgery confirms your information is correct.

How long does the Medical Exemption Certificate last?

This Medical Exemption Certificate will last for 5 years, or until your 60th birthday and, while the NHS should send you a reminder letter one month before your certificate is due to expire, you should take the initiative to re-apply before your certificate becomes invalid.

Why did I not know about this?

If you have been collecting your diabetes medication for free, and you sign to say you have valid medical exemption when your Medical Exemption Certificate has expired, you are liable to be charged.

This is done by the NHS’ Business Service Authority who can charge you for all your medication used and issue you a penalty charge for claiming medication without a valid certificate.

NHS Business Service Authority

The Business Service Authority took control of the certificates in 2002. If you were not registered for a certificate by then you will not be on their system and will not have received reminders to have a valid certificate.

If you have moved house since you last registered, and have not updated your address, then you will also not have received reminders. In 2014, the Business Service Authority assumed responsibility for checking exemptions, which is why some people may have faced charges during the last 12 months as a much more thorough system is being used.

It is down to pharmacists to check whether you have a certificate, if you receive medication for free, and if it is still valid.

I have received a fine, what do I do?

If you have been issued with a fine, you should contact the Business Service Authority. If you have been entitled to free prescriptions, then in likelihood, you will be able to get this charge revoked. Call the NHS Business Service Authority on 0300 330 9291.

Update: It has been announced following a campaign by Diabetes UK that people with diabetes who have been unfairly fined for claiming free prescriptions will be reimbursed. This comes after Health Minister Dan Poulter asked the NHS Business Service Authority to change the system in March 2015 so people with diabetes were no longer being fined unfairly. If you have been sent a penalty charge, it will be cancelled if you submit an application for a medication exemption certificate within 60 days. Alternatively, if you can confirm you have received your exemption certificate, your charge will be revoked. If you have already paid a penalty charge, you will be reimbursed for the total paid, but the cost of the prescription will not be refunded.

When does my Medical Exemption Certificate become valid?

Your Medical Exemption Certificate will become valid from one month before the date that your form is received by the Business Service Authority. It should then take within 10 days to receive your application.

If you have to get any prescriptions before your certificate arrives, you should discuss getting a refund for your diabetes medication with your pharmacist.

You can ask for a FP57 receipt and refund claim form which will allow you to claim your money back from any charges paid from that date.

Transcript

People with diabetes treated with tablets or injections are entitled to free prescriptions. To avoid paying charges for your medication, you need to have a valid ‘medical exemption certificate’.

Other people may also be entitled to free prescriptions if they meet certain conditions. People under 16 or over 60 year old are eligible for an exemption certificate for example.

A medical exemption certificate usually takes the form of a wallet sized card which you can present to confirm you are exempt from paying prescription charges.

Ask your health centre for a medical exemption application form. Alternatively, you may be able to pick up a form from your post office.

It is best to always have your medical exemption card with you when you are picking up your supplies and medication from the pharmacy. Your medical exemption certificate will be valid for 5 years, so you will need to re-apply for the certificate before your existing one expires.

It’s a good idea to re-apply a month before your current exemption certificate expires.

I do not take diabetes medication, can I apply for medical exemption?

A number of other factors may also entitle you to free prescriptions including if you are:

  • Under 16
  • Over 60 years old
  • Pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months
  • A war pensioner
  • Hold a prescription prepayment certificate
  • An HC2 certificate
  • Named as receiving benefits such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit guarantee credit or tax credits whereby certain conditions are met.

What other benefits are available for people with diabetes?

People with diabetes in the UK are also exempt from VAT on items such as blood glucose monitors and test strips.

Currently, the VAT rate in the United Kingdom is 20%.

I live in Wales, do I still get free prescriptions?

Yes, if you are registered with a GP in Wales you can still get free prescriptions if you have diabetes.

Furthermore, those people with diabetes registered with an English GP can get free prescriptions with a Medical Exemption Certificate.