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Health Matters - Check Before you Tick

Health Matters - Check Before you Tick
26 September 2018

Dr Graham Duce, clinical lead for medicines management at NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and GP at Park Green Surgery, Macclesfield

NHS England and NHS Business Services Authority have launched a new campaign called Check Before You Tick. It aims to help patients better understand who is eligible for free prescriptions and, if eligible, how to claim correctly to avoid unnecessary penalty charges.

The NHS loses an estimated £256m a year because people claim free prescriptions when they should have paid. Over the next few months, the NHS will be improving the prescription checking service to reduce this loss, including significantly increasing the number of prescriptions checked each month. It’s important to help patients understand how to claim correctly as many patients mistakenly claim free prescriptions because they have misunderstood eligibility criteria or don’t have the correct proof.

new online tool can be accessed on the NHS website to help patients understand the government’s eligibility criteria for free prescriptions.

Anyone incorrectly claiming a free prescription risks a penalty charge of up to £100 from the NHS Business Services Authority which carries out prescription checks each month.

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.

Patients are entitled to free prescriptions if they are over 60, under 16 years old or 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education.

Certain illnesses can also exempt a patient from prescription charges. Ask your doctor for an FP92A form to apply for a medical exemption certificate.

Certain benefits, but not all, qualify people for free prescriptions so it’s important that patients check their entitlement, and pharmacists should support them with this and ask to see up-to-date proof of eligibility. People mistakenly assume that all benefits entitle them to free prescriptions: this isn’t the case.

Pregnant women and new mothers with a baby under one year, 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. You can get the Maternity Exemption application form (FW8) from your doctor or midwife.

For people who experience financial difficulties but are not eligible for free prescriptions, there are other means of support such as prepayment certificates and the NHS low-income scheme. Again, pharmacists will be able to advise.