Universal Credit – What you need to know

Universal Credit – What you need to know

November 27, 2017

Universal Credit (UC) is being introduced in stages across the UK meaning more pharmacies are encountering patients eligible for free NHS prescriptions who are getting UC. UC does not automatically entitle patients to help with their health costs. See our guide to ensure you know all you need to know about UC.

Eligibility criteria

An individual qualifies for free NHS prescriptions if, on the date they claim help with health costs:

  • they receive UC and either had no earnings or had net earnings of £435 or less in their last UC assessment period


  • they receive UC, which includes an element for a child, or they (or their partner) had limited capability for work and work-related activity, and they either had no earnings or net earnings of £935 or less in their last UC assessment period

Note: If someone is part of a couple then the net earning threshold applies to their combined net earnings.

Pharmacy staff must ensure:

  • At the point at which the patient is asked to declare their exemption on the back of the prescription form, they check that the patient has a valid UC award letter notice bearing their name (either as the recipient or because they are a partner or child of the recipient) as evidence of valid entitlement.
  • Where patients do not have evidence or where there is doubt over whether the evidence provided is appropriate, the “Evidence not Seen” box on the back of the prescription should be marked with an X by pharmacy staff. Pharmacy staff need not refuse to dispense items on the basis that the patient does not provide evidence of their entitlement to free prescriptions.
  • Ask patient to tick the appropriate exemption box and sign the declaration . In the absence of a UC box ask the patient to tick the “income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance” exemption, until the prescription forms are updated.
  • Remind the patient they should make sure they are still eligible each month i.e. in case their circumstances change or check if their earnings are still within the threshold limits during their most recent monthly assessment period.
  • Inform the patient that it is their responsibility to determine the accuracy of the declaration they make. NHS Protect have a responsibility to check for prescription charge exemption fraud and patients found to have wrongly claimed for free prescriptions, could face a penalty charge, the prescription charge required and in some cases prosecution.

If a patient is unsure whether they are entitled to free prescriptions, pharmacy staff should advise the patient to pay for their prescription and provide them with an  FP57 form with information on how to claim a refund at a later date.

Useful links

Exemptions from the prescription charge

NHSBSA Universal Credit: Help your patients avoid costly mistakes

For further information about the Universal Credit please visit the Gov.uk website or NHS choices.

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