General practitioners have been ordered to tighten up procedures in an attempt to cull fraudulent claims of free prescriptions.
Only patients with long-term medical conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a baby within the last 12 months are entitled to free prescriptions from the NHS, and they must obtain an entitlement certificate from their GP.
“As the number of post-dispensing checks on free NHS prescriptions increases, GPs are asked to help make sure that their patients understand who is entitled – and who isn’t” said the NHS Business Services Authority.
Patients told the Authority that they ‘rely on’ GPs to tell them whether or not they are except from prescription charges. Therefore, GPs must brush up on the rules of eligibility and provide the relevant patients with forms on how to do so.
“GPs can help reduce the risk of those patients claiming free prescriptions incorrectly by notifying patients of their eligibility, signing and submitting applications for exemption certificates as soon as the qualifying condition is diagnosed or pregnancy is confirmed”, said Brendan Brown, head of NHS help with Health Costs at the NHS Business Services Authority.
He further explained the importance of patients keeping their exemption certificates up to date.
GPs and their associated staff are “crucial to ensuring NHS money is spent only where it’s needed” Mr Brown added.
Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee also highlighted on the importance of exemption certificates, saying: “Clearly when a GP diagnoses a patient with a condition that qualifies them for free prescriptions, GPs have a role in advising them of the fact and completing the certificate, however once this is done it is up to others to ensure that their methods of communicating are sufficiently robust to allow patients to understand their obligations.”