How the ‘medical exemption certificate’ works
All patients in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are entitled to NHS treatment are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if they’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
This includes medications and dressings that are prescribed:
- After curative treatment (for example, lymphoedema garments or Tamoxifen).
- To treat the effects of cancer treatment (whether they are symptoms or conditions as a result of current or previous treatment). Side effects may be due to treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or biological therapies.
- To treat the effects of the cancer (for example, medications used in palliative care such as painkillers, or medications used to treat a mental health problem that has arisen since cancer was diagnosed).
The medical exemption certificate doesn’t cover:
- People who have a pre-cancerous condition.
- People who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.
- People who have been treated for cancer and are apparently clear and no further treatment is planned.
You don’t need to apply if you:
- are aged 60 or over
- are aged under 16
- are aged 16-18 and in full-time education
- have a medical exemption certificate because your condition is on the list, you or your partner is on income support, or you can qualify via other benefits or tax credits. You may wish to apply for the exemption due to your cancer if your benefit(s) are based on employment and/or financial circumstances, as these may change in the future
- are resident in Scotland or Wales
This is because you’re already entitled to free NHS prescriptions.
Who issues the certificate?
GPs, oncology clinics, specialists or oncology nurses can issue patients with the form (FP92A), which will need to be countersigned by either your GP or hospital doctor. This form has a pre-addressed envelope to the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA). This is a government department that issues medical exemption certificates for all reasons.
The medical exemption certificate for cancer patients is not means tested and it can take about 10 days to be delivered to you.
Please see our ‘further information’ links below.
Does the certificate only cover medications related to my cancer?
The medical exemption certificate covers patients for all NHS prescriptions, including those for other conditions that aren’t related to the cancer.
For example, if you’d been paying for your prescriptions for medication to treat hypertension, these would then become free once you have a medical exemption certificate following a cancer diagnosis.
Do I have to pay for NHS prescriptions whilst I’m waiting for my exemption certificate?
Yes. But you can ask for your dispenser (chemist/pharmacist) to issue you with a FP57 receipt when you pay for your prescription. Once you receive your exemption certificate you can take these receipts along to any chemist/pharmacist and claim a refund. Refunds will be issued back to the date the certificate takes effect (your certificate card will have a start date) and you’ll need to apply for a refund within three months of paying for your prescription
If you’ve already paid for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) before you became exempt, you may be able to claim a refund for all or some of the money. Please see http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/HealthCosts/2132.aspx for more information on how to claim.
How long does the exemption last?
Exemption certificates run for five years and a reminder will automatically be sent to you towards the expiry date. You can then renew this certificate if the qualifying conditions still apply.
My partner has passed away from cancer, how do I avoid getting renewal reminders?
Returning the certificate along with a short cover note should prevent any further renewal communications.
I’m paying for private treatment alongside NHS treatment – am I still eligible for exemption from prescription charges?
NHS patients who choose to pay for private treatment alongside their NHS treatment can do so, provided the extra treatment is carried out in a private facility and isn’t subsidised by the NHS. Please see NHS Choices for more information:
Patients receiving private treatment who have an NHS doctor may apply for a prescription charge exemption if the doctor has access to records to enable him/her to confirm the patient’s statement.
What does the certificate look like?
It’s a credit-card size card that fits in a standard wallet/purse. It looks like this:
Where can I find further information on benefits for cancer patients?
You can find advice on benefits, including prescription charge exemption certificates on the NHS Choices website.
MacMillan Cancer Support (http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx)