Campaign launched to encourage people to find out whether they are entitled to free prescriptions.
A nationwide campaign has been launched this week to help patient’s understand the government’s eligibility criteria for free prescriptions.
The ‘Check Before You Tick’ campaign will encourage patients to check whether they are entitled to free prescriptions before claiming them.
NHS England hopes to reduce the £256 million annual bill from people incorrectly claiming prescriptions for free.
A new online tool is available now for patients to check, while pharmacists will also be able to advise whether someone is able to claim free prescriptions.
Patients incorrectly claiming a free prescription could face a penalty charge of up to £100 from the NHS Business Services Authority which carries out prescription checks each month.
Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England said: “Free prescriptions ensure that at-risk groups of people get the medication they need, but it’s crucial that this support also offers best value for taxpayers. Pharmacy teams are at the front-line in helping people understand the criteria for free prescriptions, and because mistaken claims place an extra cost burden on the NHS, it’s important that patients, carers and pharmacists know how and when they can make a claim.”
Alison O’Brien, Head of Loss Recovery Services, from NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBDA) said: “The NHS loses millions each year through fraudulent and incorrect claims for free prescriptions. On behalf of NHS England, the NHSBSA checks claims randomly and retrospectively in order to appropriately recover funds and return them to NHS services. We encourage all patients to check their entitlement before claiming free prescriptions and our online tool provides support to understand if they are eligible.”
Patients are entitled to free prescriptions if they are under 16-years-old or aged 16-18 and in full time education, or over 60. Certain illnesses can also exempt a patient from prescription charges as well as being pregnant or having a baby under one year.
Certain benefits, but not all, qualify people for free prescriptions, so it is important that patients check their entitlement, and pharmacists should support them with this and ask to see up-to-date proof of eligibility.
Pregnant women and new mothers, although eligible to claim free prescriptions, may not always realise they need a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate. Without a valid certificate, they too could receive a penalty charge.
For individuals who experience financial difficulties but are not eligible for free prescriptions, there are other means of support available to them – ask your pharmacists for details.