A new campaign that encourages patients to check whether they are entitled to free prescriptions before claiming them is calling on pharmacy teams to help raise awareness of the issue.

As part of the ‘Check Before You Tick’ campaign, which has been launched by NHS England and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), patients can access a new online tool to familiarise themselves with the Government’s eligibility criteria for free prescriptions, while pharmacies will receive communications materials to help promote the initiative.

Incorrect claims for free prescriptions currently cause the NHS £256 million annually, and people who make false claims are liable to a penalty charge of up to £100.

NHS England chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge 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 frontline 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.”

Commenting on the campaign, RPS English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley said: “It’s important that patients know how and when they can get free prescriptions. Pharmacists and their teams already play a key role in the prescription exemption checking process, but can help by encouraging patients to check their entitlement before completing the declaration on the prescription. Patients can forget to renew their exemption, so reminding them or helping them check online could help avoid a fine for a genuine mistake.”

Who is exempt from free prescriptions?

  • Under-16s
  • People aged 16-18 who are in full time education
  • Over-60s
  • People with certain illnesses, such as diabetes mellitus, epilepsy and cancer
  • Pregnant women and new mothers (a Maternity Exemption Certificate is required).

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