Q. Do patients from devolved countries pay a prescription charge in England?

A: In the years following devolution of the NHS administrations to the separate countries of the UK, the way patients pay for their prescriptions has changed. All prescription charges have been abolished in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The traditional charging and exemption system still operates in England.

Confusion can arise when a patient from a devolved country, where prescriptions are free, presents their prescription in an English pharmacy. Does the patient have to pay the English prescription charge?

Patients from Scotland or Wales must pay the prescription charge at the current rate if their prescription is dispensed in an English pharmacy. This is unless the patient qualifies for exemption under English rules, for example if under 16 or over 60 years of age.

Patients from Northern Ireland do not have to pay the charge, provided their prescription is issued on the newer HS21CS form.

The situation becomes more complicated when a patient from England presents their prescription for dispensing elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

For a handy reference chart and a full discussion of the issues affecting prescription charges within the UK, please see our CPD article: Prescription Charges in UK Countries.