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  1. Health Service
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  3. Prescriptions
Current students


Fees for NHS services

Patients are usually required to contribute towards NHS costs with prescription fees for medications, dental fees, and opticians fees. You may be able to claim exemption if you have a low income. You will need to fill in Form HC1 that is available at the Health Service. If you are under 19 years old and in full time education no charges apply for NHS services.

There are no charges for seeing a GP for health problems.

Prescriptions are taken to a pharmacists or chemist shop in order to have the medicines dispensed.

Getting the most from your pharmacy

What the pharmacy can offer

The pharmacy (or chemist's shop) is the place to go to have prescriptions made up. But it offers a lot more. Pharmacists provide a range of services including giving advice on the treatment of minor health problems. This could save you a trip to your GP. You can use any pharmacy you wish. In country areas, the GP's surgery will dispense medicines to patients of the practice, although patients may take prescriptions to other pharmacies. It's a good idea to use one pharmacy regularly and to get to know the pharmacist by name.

The local health authority has a list of all pharmacies in the area. Or you can go to any public library or post office to see the published pharmaceutical list.

Medicines on prescription

You can get NHS and private prescriptions made up at any pharmacy. GPs (general practitioners or family doctors) generally write National Health Service (NHS) prescriptions, but they can write private ones. You have to pay for the medicine, but you do not pay NHS prescription charges - so it may be cheaper.

Ask your GP or pharmacist about private prescriptions.

Over-the-counter medicines

Some medicines are available 'over the counter' (OTC), which means you can buy them without a prescription. The contents and action of the medicine will be the same as the prescribed medicine but it may be cheaper. Ask your GP if the medicine he or she is prescribing for you is available over the counter. Or ask your pharmacist when you take your prescription in.

Paying for medicines

A charge is made for each item on an NHS prescription currently £8.20, but some people don't have to pay the charge because of their age, income or medical condition. Patients on regular medication may apply to the health authority for a 'season ticket' (pre-payment certificate) for longer periods.

People who do not have to pay prescription charges include:

  • people aged 60 and over
  • people under age 16 and full-time students under age 19
  • most people on income support, family credit or a disability living allowance
  • pregnant women or those who have a baby under 12 months old
  • people suffering from certain medical conditions.

To find out if you qualify for free prescriptions, ask the pharmacist, your GP, health visitor or the health authority. To get free prescriptions, you will need to fill out form P11 which the GP, pharmacist or Department of Social Security (DSS) offices can give you. Anyone can get a season ticket from the pharmacist.

Asking for advice from the pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in medicines, with a minimum of four years of training in their use. A certificate on display in the shop shows the pharmacist's name. The pharmacist may be able to give you advice on the use of medicines that are dispensed or sold, including how to take them and any side-effects. Ask the pharmacist if there are any medicines you should avoid, otherwise you might take a mixture of medicines that could be harmful when taken together.

Tell the pharmacist:

  • what the problem is and what your symptoms are (pain, vomiting, dizziness, etc.)
  • what medicines you are already taking
  • if you are allergic to anything (e.g. penicillin)
  • if you are pregnant or breast feeding your baby.
  • if the patient is a child, give the child's age.

Dealing with minor illnesses

Many minor illnesses will go away after a time, but there may be things you can do or medicines to take which will help you feel better. The pharmacist can advise you how you can recognise and treat minor illnesses and may suggest medicines that you can buy over the counter. This could save you a trip to the doctor, but the pharmacist should be able to tell you if you need to see your GP. Pharmacists encourage people to consult them about minor illnesses and health worries. If you want to talk in confidence, ask if there is somewhere private where you can talk to the pharmacist. Some pharmacists keep patient medication records, which list all of the medicines that they have dispensed for you. If you have any worries about who might see these records, you need to ask the pharmacist.

Services available from pharmacies

  • Repeat prescriptions
  • Deliveries to housebound people
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Deliveries of oxygen
  • Appliances and aids for disabled people
  • Incontinence and ostomy products
  • Health information such as advice on a balanced diet or how to stop smoking
  • Advice on what medicines to take away on holiday
  • Products such as Aromatherapy oils, herbal treatments and homeopathic medicines. These can be bought at many pharmacies. They are 'complementary therapies' - oils, ointments, drops or tablets that are used for many different kinds of illnesses. The pharmacist can give advice on how to use them.


It is inadvisable to keep old medicines at home. It is also unwise to use medicines prescribed for someone else. Pharmacists and dispensing GPs will safely dispose of any unwanted or out-of-date medicines for you free of charge.

Late-night opening

Dispensing services are available outside normal opening hours - at night, on Sundays and on public holidays. Find out which pharmacies offer these late night services. For prescriptions, there may be a rota of pharmacies which are open all night. In an emergency, contact the police. Look in pharmacy windows for the late night and weekend rota. (This may also be published in the local paper, or available through your GP or nearest hospital.) There may be a telephone number to ring to find out the rota.