The NHS has taken measures to stop patients from wrongfully claiming prescriptions for free. Prescription frauds, according to sources, cost the NHS £256 million annually. These measures would help reduce these costs by half.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a warning to such individuals who commit prescription fraud said, “The message is clear: the NHS is no longer an easy target and if you try to steal from it you will face the consequences.” At present patients are exempted from paying a fee of £8.80 if they state their inability. Whether they are actually eligible for the exemption is checked at random later after the prescriptions have been filled by the NHS Business Authority. Under the new strictures, pharmacists would have to check a digital database if the patient is exempted before filling the prescription.
Some of the experts including those from Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Medical Association, who are opposing this plan are of the opinion that these measures would adversely affect people with low incomes. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society also added that some individuals who fail to pay for the prescriptions are actually doing so as a genuine mistake. The false claims for exemptions are fined with £100. Many indivudals who have been fined have actually either filed their forms incorrectly or forgotten to renew their exemptions the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society also add that low income groups and those with long term illnesses would be affected by this. Sandra Gidley, chair of the society’s English Pharmacy Board in a statement to the BBC said, “£8.60 might not be a lot to you but if you’re on a very low income…finding £17 is well nigh impossible for some people. It is hoped stricter rules could wipe out more than £100 million in losses to fraud. The whole system is unjust and unfair.” She said, “Sometimes somebody has free prescriptions legitimately, they’ve got a medical exception – they’re something like a diabetic – and they might forget to renew it and the computer says no. You’re not going to stop a diabetic from getting their insulin, for example. So I think this is potentially fraught with problems.”
Mr Hancock said in a statement, “Those who abuse the NHS and choose to line their own pockets with money that should be spent on patients and frontline care will no longer have anywhere to hide. The new technology and analysis, combined with intel and experience of counter-fraud specialists will form the starting point of this new fight against NHS fraudsters.” This new digitalized system of checking and dispensing would be started as a pilot project next year and costs related to prescription fraud are expected to be halved by April 2020.
In 2016 the number of people fined with £100 for false claims almost doubled to around 900,000. England is the only part of United Kingdom that charges for prescriptions at present. This new effort to curb fraud would be headed by Health Minister Steve Barclay.