Nearly a million patients in England overpay for their NHS prescriptions, according to MoneySavingExpert.
A Freedom of Information request (FOI) obtained by the consumer website found that in the 2016/17 financial year, 825,677 people in England paid for 13 or more prescription items, and on average, bought 18 items.
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But these NHS patients could have saved at least £5.20 per prescription or an average of £50 per year for those buying 18 or more items by getting a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).
A PPC is a scheme designed to provide value for money for patients who take a regular prescription for medication. According to MoneySavingExpert, it works like a ‘season ticket’, where you pay upfront for three or 12 months and receive all of your prescriptions without further cost.
In 2016/17, a prescription item cost £8.40, whereas a 12-month NHS PPC would have cost £104. This means that anyone paying for 13 items or more on prescription would save at least £5.20 on the overall cost.
Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert, comments: "These stats show that a huge number of patients are paying more than they need to for medicine prescribed on the NHS - and in many cases, could save almost £50 over the course of a year.
"If you’re going to need 13 or more items on prescription in the course of a year and you don't qualify for free prescriptions, the season ticket is certainly worth it. And while of course not everyone will know from the outset how many prescriptions they'll need, it's clear many are missing out on savings.
"To be fair many pharmacists and GPs do tell patients they can save using this scheme, but it's clear there's still a lack of awareness. The NHS should do whatever it can to publicise this scheme to patients who can use it to pay less."
Note that this issue only affects patients in England as prescriptions are free in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Certain people in England, such as those over 60 or under 16, also qualify for free prescriptions. See our Push prescription prices down guide for the full details.