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Help with prescriptions and medical costs

We asked our team to give us the low down on prescriptions and medical costs related to cancer...

Pete talks prescriptions...

You might find yourself needing a long list of medications when going through cancer treatment, its side-effects, and your recovery and for anyone who has previously paid for prescriptions this can be daunting.

Don't panic! For anyone living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free and will cover your cancer related medications.

If you live in England, you are also likely to qualify for free prescriptions, both because you have a diagnosis of cancer and because you are pregnant. However, you'll need to complete a little bit of paperwork to claim them.

During pregnancy and up to 12 months after your child's birth you can apply for a maternity exemption certificate (MatEx FP92a) by speaking to your doctor, midwife or health visitor.

Your certificate will be sent to you by email or in the post and will last until 12 months after the expected date of birth of your baby. If your baby's born early, you can continue to use your certificate until it expires. If your baby is born late, you can apply for an extension.

If you apply after your baby is born, your certificate will last for 12 months from your baby's birth.

To continue receiving free prescriptions after the MatEx expires, you will need to apply for a medical exemption certificate (MedEx). This will cover all your prescriptions, not just those relating to your cancer treatment.

Ask your GP for a MedEx form and ensure that they or a member of the practice staff sign the form to confirm that your eligibility statement is correct. You will be responsible for sending it to the NHS Business Services Authority by Freepost. Your certificate will be valid from 1 month before the date the NHS Business Services Authority receives the application form. The MedEx lasts for 5 years and then needs to be renewed. You may receive a reminder that your certificate needs to be renewed, but if you do not, it is your responsibility to make sure it's renewed.

Fiona talks wig and fabric support...

Living with cancer may mean you require special clothing e.g. a surgical bra to support your treatment and recovery. You may also choose to wear a wig if you experience hair loss. These items can be expensive, so the NHS provides these for free in Scotland, N.Ireland and Wales. In England there is generally a charge but certain groups are not required to pay. To qualify for a free wig and fabric supports you must be:

  • 16 to 18 and in full-time education

  • a hospital inpatient

or if you or your partner (including civil partner) receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependent of someone receiving:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit - dependent on your earnings

or if you're entitled to or named on:

  • a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if you do not have a certificate, you can show your award notice; you qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less

  • a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2) – people named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help

For further information on eligibility in England, go to Wigs and fabric supports | NHSBSA

If you don't qualify for NHS support don't despair! There are a number of charities, local and national, that provide support in accessing wigs and other wearable support items. Speak to one of our Information and Support workers for help locating them.

Sara talks travel costs...

Travelling to and from hospital appointments can be costly, especially if you require specialist treatment outside your local area.

The NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme will cover these expenses for some individuals, dependent on their personal and medical circumstances.

To qualify for help with travel costs under the HTCS, you must meet 3 conditions:

  • At the time of your appointment, you or your partner (including civil partners) must receive one of the qualifying benefits or allowances, or meet the eligibility criteria for the NHS Low Income Scheme.

  • You must have a referral from a healthcare professional, e.g: GP, to a specialist or a hospital for further NHS treatment or tests (often referred to as secondary care).

  • Your appointment must be on a separate visit to when the referral was made. This applies whether your treatment is provided at a different location (hospital or clinic) or on the same premises as where the GP or another health professional issued the referral.

The qualifying benefits and allowances are:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Working Tax Credit (WTC) with Child Tax Credit (CTC)

  • WTC with a disability element or a severe disability element

  • CTC but you're not eligible for WTC

  • you receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria related to recent earnings

You can also claim for help with travel costs if:

  • you're named on, or entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate (if you do not have a certificate, you can show your award notice) – you qualify if you get child tax credits, working tax credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less

  • you have a low income and are named on certificate HC2 (full help) or HC3 (limited help)

​The scheme does have a number of stipulations on the kind of transport it will refund and when, so if this is something you think would help, do take a good look at their website here.

If you are unsure what kind of help you might qualify for, or need help with forms or applications, speak to your Information and Support Worker or email to self-refer.


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