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08 July 2016

People with epilepsy warned of NHS prescription penalty charges

The NHS is clamping down on patients claiming free NHS prescriptions without a valid medical exemption certificate by issuing penalty charge notices to protect NHS resources.

Epilepsy patients are only entitled to free prescriptions on the NHS if they have a valid medical exemption certificate. Healthcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is administered independently, meaning that only patients in England will be affected by the penalty charge notices.

In England, if a person with epilepsy declares they do not have to pay for their prescription on medical grounds but is not carrying a valid certificate, they could be issued with a penalty charge notice covering the payment of the original prescription charge as well as a penalty of up to £100.

Applying for a certificate

A person issued with a penalty charge notice will be given 60 days to apply for a medical exemption certificate.  If the application is successful, the penalty charge will be removed.

Backdated payments

A person with epilepsy who needs continuous anticonvulsive treatment can apply for a certificate by filling out an application form signed by their GP, hospital or service doctor.  The application process can take a few weeks so payments are backdated by a month from the date the application is received.  This means any prescriptions will be refunded when an NHS refund receipt (called an FP57 form) is provided.

Exemption for any prescribed drug

Medical exemption certificates are valid for five years and are printed on a white plastic card which should be shown to the pharmacist every time a prescription is collected.  The card carrier is exempt from paying for any prescribed medicines, for their epilepsy or any other condition (but not dental treatment or eye tests). 

For more information on the medical exemption certificate, please follow this link.

If you are not entitled to a medical exemption certificate but would like to find out if you qualify for free prescriptions on other grounds, ask your GP or pharmacist for a ‘Claiming free prescriptions?’ booklet or visit




Epilepsy helpline 

Our confidential helpline is for anyone in the UK affected by epilepsy.

Call: 01494 601 400 (national call rate)
Daytime: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am - 4pm
Extended hours: Wednesday: 9am - 8pm

Read more about the helpline here


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