More than a million people in England overpaid for prescriptions in the year to April 2021, according to MoneySavingExpert.com.
On average, they missed out on savings of around £40, as a certificate could have kept their costs down.
MoneySavingExpert said people can buy an NHS prescription “season ticket”, which would save them money overall if they tend to pay for more than one prescription a month.
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis urges people with more than one prescription per month – including those with chronic conditions – to check out what savings they could potentially make.
He obtained the figures from the NHS Business Services Authority via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
A total of 1,063,648 people paid for at least 12 prescriptions in the 2020/21 financial year, of which 16 were purchased on average.
At the time, an annual subscription – called a pre-paid prescription certificate (PPC), which covers the cost of all drugs dispensed in pharmacies for a year – cost £106, while a single prescription cost £9.15 .
This left patients in England who overspent each time by an average of £40 over the year – totaling £43million – the consumer help website said.
He said these subscriptions are worth checking out now, as prices for prescriptions and PPCs tend to rise each April, although costs for the 2022/23 financial year have yet to be announced.
Patients can buy PPC by card or direct debit from the NHS Business Services Authority website or by calling 0300 330 1341. PPC can also be bought in person at many pharmacies.
The number of people who could have saved by purchasing an annual PPC has increased steadily in each of the past six years. It’s the third year in a row that more than a million patients could have saved money by using one, MoneySavingExpert said.
FOI data also revealed that there were 2,456,160 PPCs purchased in total during the 2020/21 financial year, including annual and quarterly applications.
We need to spread the word to everyone who regularly receives prescriptions – including some with chronic illnesses – to check prepayment certificates
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com
Mr Lewis said: “England is the only one of the four UK countries to charge for prescriptions, so it is frustrating to hear that many people are still paying more than necessary.
“We need to get the word out to everyone who regularly receives prescriptions – including some with chronic illnesses – to check prepayment certificates.
“These subscriptions cap what you have to pay, because for a one-time payment you get unlimited prescriptions for three months or a year.
“My simple rule of thumb is that if you get more than one prescription per month on average, that’s the cheapest way. And someone receiving, say, two prescriptions a month would save over £100 a year .
In April 2021 prescription costs increased to £9.35 and annual CPAP costs to £108.10. Alternatively, a three-month subscription costs £30.25, which could save someone money if they buy four or more prescriptions during that time.
MoneySavingExpert said patients should always check first if they are eligible for a waiver to avoid paying in full. The NHS has an online tool to check entitlements, including those receiving tax credits or who are pregnant.
A cheap and free prescription guide is also available on the MoneySavingExpert.com website.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘Around 89% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge in England and we estimate that around 60% of people are not charged for them.
“Prescription prepayment certificates are available to help people in England who need frequent prescriptions and are not exempt from charges. We encourage anyone who may be eligible to consider using CPAP to save money on their prescriptions.