Free prescriptions warning: Make sure you can claim or face £100 fine

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If someone claims their prescriptions for free when they do not qualify for it then they could face the consequences of receiving a £100 fine, as well as other payments on top. NHS England stated that the fine would still stand even if it claimed “by mistake”. In England, people have to pay for their prescriptions and the current price is £9.35 per item. 

However, all prescriptions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are free.

When collecting a prescription in England, the pharmacist will ask a person if they are eligible to have a free prescription, they must then tick a box on their prescription which equates to their personal circumstance.

According to NHS England, Britons who claim when they are not eligible will be told to pay the original NHS prescription or dental treatment charges and the penalty charge on top. 

The group stated that it is the “responsibility” of the individual to make sure the correct box is ticked. 

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This is whether it is ticked by themselves, someone on their behalf, or the pharmacy or dental practice staff.

The charge could increase by an extra £50 if it is not paid within 28 days of receiving the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).

Britons are able to set up a direct debit to pay the penalty charge on the NHS’s Business Service Authority’s (NHSBSA) website.

This is the group responsible for checking claims made for free NHS prescriptions and NHS dental treatment, and it carries out monthly randomised checks on prescription forms and dental treatment claim forms to check for fraud and error.

If someone is unsure of whether they can claim or not then they can check using the online NHS eligibility tool. 

The tool simply asks the user a few questions about their circumstance and usually takes around three minutes to complete. 

The questions include where a person lives and where their GP and dental practice is, and what their date of birth is.

The tool later asks if a person lives with a partner, whether they claim tax credits, whether they are pregnant, and whether they have an injury or illness caused by serving in the armed forces.

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The questions then ask about a person’s health and if they receive medication. Finally, it will ask about a person’s savings. After answering all these questions the tool will provide an answer.

According to the NHS, around £256million is lost per year due to patients falsely claiming prescriptions for free.

Chief pharmaceutical officer for NHS England Keith Ridge stated that mistaken claims placed an “extra burden on the NHS”. 

He said: “Free prescriptions ensure that at-risk groups of people get the medication they need, but it’s crucial that this support also offers the 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.”

Under the current rules, people are eligible for free prescriptions if they are under 16 years old or 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education, or are over 60 years. 

Certain illnesses, such as diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer, can also exempt a person from prescription charges. People with eligible conditions will usually hold a Medical Exemption Card.

People should not automatically assume that their illness makes them exempt and should either speak to their medical team or do the NHS eligibility checker before claiming.

Pregnant women and new mothers should also be eligible to claim free prescriptions, however, they will need a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate. Without a valid certificate, they too could receive a penalty charge.

People on certain benefits, but not all, can also qualify so people must check their entitlement using the tool to know for sure.



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