Universal Credit is a payment intended to help with living costs, which a person may be able to claim if they are on a low income or they are out of work. This system is due to replace six legacy benefits, with a pilot scheme of the movement of existing legacy benefits who have not had had a change in circumstances currently underway in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Some people may be entitled to free NHS prescriptions, and this can include Universal Credit claimants – provided they meet certain criteria.
Otherwise, it may be that they need to pay a £9 prescription charge for each prescribed item.
Last year, Birmingham Live reported that the prescription forms do not currently include an exemption option for people on Universal Credit.
And, according to the publication, man who was entitled to free prescriptions, faced a £45 penalty charge on top of the £9 fee – although the fine had since been revoked after contacting the NHS England helpline.
So, if a Universal Credit claimant is exempt from paying the prescription fee, what should they do?
A spokesperson from NHS Business Services Authority explained last year, that Universal Credit claimants should currently tick box K for Jobseeker’s Allowance, rather than box H for Income Support.
NHS Business Services Authority’s director of citizen services, Brendan Brown, said: “At the moment there’s no tick box on the prescription form for patients to declare that they are exempt from charges because they receive Universal Credit and meet the prescribed earnings thresholds.
“Current guidance states that the patient should tick the box on the prescription form to state that they are on income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance instead, which is box K.
“This has been agreed with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and communicated to all pharmacies in England.
“We appreciate that this can be confusing and we’re working with DHSC to get a box added to the back of the prescription form to make it clearer for those UC claimants who meet the eligibility criteria.
“These changes are expected to happen by the end of the year.”
He added: “If someone thinks they’ve been incorrectly sent a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) they should follow the instructions on the letter to challenge it straight away.
“People can challenge their PCN if they were entitled to claim free prescriptions at the time, or if there is an exceptional reason why they should not pay the penalty charge and they can show that they did not act wrongfully or with any lack of care.
“The easiest and quickest way to challenge a PCN is online at www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/PCN.”
Mr Brown continued: “People can also challenge their PCN by emailing us, calling us or writing to us. Our contact details are all on the back of the PCN.
“We understand that the process can sometimes be confusing.
“Rather than ignoring or worrying about a PCN, we encourage customers to get in touch with us and we can work with them to find a solution.”
Universal Credit: Free NHS prescriptions eligibility
The NHS Business Services Authority explains that if a person is getting Universal Credit, their entitlement to free NHS prescriptions depends on their earnings for the most recent assessment period.
It says: “You’re entitled if your earnings during that period were:
- £435 or less
- £935 or less if the Universal Credit includes an element for a child, or if the claimant has a limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work related activity.
“‘Most recent assessment period’ means the assessment period that ended immediately before the date you claim free NHS prescriptions. It runs for a calendar month.”
If a person clams Universal Credit as a couple, then the earnings limit will apply to the join income of both partners.
“The patient declaration on the prescription form does not yet include Universal Credit,” the website reads.
“You should tick the Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance box and show your Universal Credit award notice as proof that you’re entitled.”