This post is written by Dr Nikki Ramskill who runs an amazing blog called The Female Money Doctor.
I’m a real-life doctor working in the UK, training to become a GP. In my practice, I can see evidence of how lack of money causes poor health through stress and sleepless nights. I’m passionate about helping people do something about this and sort their money out so that it SUPPORTS them instead.
In this post, I want to cover some of the things you can do to reduce the amount of money you spend on your healthcare. I hope you find it useful!
Snub Big Brands
In the same way that you might buy supermarket-brand items like ketchup and bread, you can do this too with medications that you can buy over the counter.
Simple things like paracetamol and ibuprofen can be massively overpriced if you buy a brand. If you go generic (which means that it is not linked with a brand name) you will be able to pick up tablets for pennies.
It doesn’t mean that they don’t work as well either or they are “not as targeted” to the pain you have. The drug gets everywhere in your system just as fast. Don’t believe the hype!
The same goes for hayfever tablets, rehydration salts, anti-diarrhoea medication and pretty much anything else you can buy without a prescription. If you need help, ask a pharmacist – they’re usually pretty helpful and can show you the non-brand versions.
Take Advantage Of All The Freebies
There will be certain groups of people who are entitled to *free* prescriptions in England. The fortunate people in Wales and Scotland already have this, but if you’re in England, you have to spend £9.00 per item you are prescribed.
Check out the NHS England website for more detailed information, but below is a summary of the main groups of people who are entitled to free prescriptions.
Pregnancy – If you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, you get free:
- NHS prescriptions – but only if you have a valid maternity exemption certificate
- NHS dental treatment – when you were accepted for a course of treatment
A doctor, midwife or health visitor can help you with getting an exemption certificate. It will last until 12 months after the expected date of birth of the baby. If the baby is born late, extensions can be granted! If you apply after the baby is born, the certificate will run for 12 months from the baby’s birth.
Benefits – If you or your partner – including civil partner – receive any of the following, then you can claim for free prescriptions. Likewise, if you’re under the age of 20 and depend financially on someone who receives these benefits, then you also have free prescription entitlement.
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Universal Credit (but you need to meet specific criteria)
Certain ages – if you are aged 60 or over, under the age of 16, or 16-18, and you still go to school or college then your prescriptions are free!
Certain conditions – there are many conditions that carry the benefit of free prescriptions which I’m sure you’ll agree is a massive relief. Ask your GP for a medical exemption application form to claim this.
The following conditions apply:
- Cancer (and anything related to cancer treatment or effects)
- If you’re on renal dialysis, but only if there is a clinical need for a permanent fistula to be covered by a surgical dressing (for example, between haemodialysis treatments) or by an appliance (such as a catheter for peritoneal dialysis).
- You have a permanent fistula (for example, a caecostomy, colostomy, laryngostomy or ileostomy) requiring continuous surgical dressing or requiring an appliance
- a form of hypoadrenalism requiring treatment (this means that your adrenal glands are not working properly, and includes illnesses like Addison’s disease)
- diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism (this means that a gland in your head called the pituitary gland is not working properly)
- diabetes mellitus (type 1 or 2) that requires medicine to control it (not diet only)
- hypoparathyroidism (this means that your parathyroid glands are not working well or have been removed)
- myasthenia gravis (a muscle weakness disorder)
- hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement (the thyroid gland isn’t working properly)
- epilepsy requiring medication
- a continuing physical disability that means the person can’t go out without the help of another person – temporary disabilities don’t count, even if they last for several months
It’s a long list, and if you’re not sure, then ask your GP for help.
Use Prescription Services
A prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is exactly what it says – a way of prepaying your prescription charges to make it cheaper. It included all NHS prescriptions (including dental) no matter how many items you need.
Consider Using A Mirena Coil
The great thing about having the NHS is that contraception is FREE. When I did a placement in Jersey a few years ago, I learnt that contraception is not free on the island, and in fact, women had to decide between long-acting and short-acting contraception and had to budget for this. We are so lucky!
- Short-acting contraception includes pills, patches, condoms and diaphragms.
- Long-acting contraception includes the non-hormone copper coil, hormone coils like the mirena and implants.
Now what I am about to say may be seen as controversial to some, but it really annoys me when articles about contraception are written and hormonal contraception is made out to be something to avoid.
Yes, not every method is suitable, and I would encourage you to speak with a family planning expert first, but there is a HUGE benefit to using long-acting methods that contain hormones and this is with your periods.
The mirena coil reduces the monthly blood lost in 90% of women who have one inserted. In 20% of women (20 out of 100 women), their periods stop within the first year of insertion. You have 3-5 years of pregnancy protection (depending on which type you have put in).
Think about the savings in pads and tampons you could make ESPECIALLY if you have heavy periods.
There are benefits in not needing to take pills every day, less time off from work if you really suffer, and less risk of having an accidental pregnancy (and we all know how pricey babies are!)
Of course there are risks of having one inserted, but they are thankfully low. Don’t go to forums and random websites for your advice when it comes to your sexual health – see a trained professional and take advantage of the free contraception available to you!
Channel Oliver Twist And Ask Your GP For More
When you get a prescription from your GP, unless it is an antidepressant or something that would potentially be harmful to you in large quantities, then ask your GP to prescribe a larger box for you so that one prescription lasts you much longer!
Ask For A Medication Review
If you take a lot of medication, it wouldn’t harm to have a review every now and again.
GPs ideally should be automatically arranging for this to happen, but if you haven’t heard in a while, ask your GP to “declutter” your medication. There may be things you no longer need, and therefore no longer need to pay for.
Don’t Automatically Renew
This goes hand in hand with the above, but it is so easy to not do! Check what you have in your cupboard and only order what you need. You’ll be amazed at how many people “hoard” medication that then goes out of date and wastes money for themselves and the NHS.
Ask Your Pharmacist
Your pharmacist has been to university as long as a doctor has (sometimes more!), so ask for their advice.
They’ll know the cheaper alternatives as I mentioned, and they can help you by suggesting medications that may actually work for you, as opposed to random trial and error and wasting money on things that won’t work.
If you use herbal remedies and vitamins, wait for shop discount events. Holland and Barrett have been doing penny sales (buy one product and get a second for 1p), and other shops like boots and superdrug regularly do 3 for 2 offers. Use generic items as much as possible (again see #1) and stock up when the offers are on. Take advantage of loyalty programs too to get the maximum benefit from your shopping.
I want to provide a word of caution – be VERY CAREFUL about ordering things on the internet. Use websites of brands that you recognise, and don’t be tempted to buy medication from sites like Amazon or eBay just because they’re cheap. You really won’t know what you’re getting and could be doing yourself more harm than good.
Look after your health – prevention is better than cure
I put this one last because I think most people know that if they look after their health, it reduces their chances of poor health developing in the future. The problem is, no one thinks it will happen to them, so we tend to put off looking after our health to “one day”. I do it too, so by no means are doctors saints in this respect.
To give you an example:
Don’t smoke! This reduces the chance that you’ll develop smoking-related lung conditions in the future. This means you won’t need to purchase medication to get yourself over yet another bought of pneumonia or buy numerous inhalers to help with your breathing. Stopping smoking not only prevents future problems, it also saves you money in the long run. Just think how much money you’ll save by giving up the habit!! You can calculate your savings here.
And if you think that using nicotine replacement is expensive, think again. It’s much cheaper on prescription than it is to buy yourself, so there’s no excuse! Just ask your GP.
There are many other things you can do to improve your health – but it all comes down to whether you want to do it or not.
I hope you have found this informative and useful – I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to find me on my website, or drop a comment in below and I’d be happy to help.