Patients claiming free prescriptions will face checks

Patients claiming free prescriptions will face checks

Patients claiming free prescriptions in England face checks before medicine is issued in an effort to stamp out fraud, which currently costs the NHS an estimated £256m a year. The new digitised system to be piloted next year will mean pharmacies can instantly verify who is entitled to free medication. Other measures will include a new drive to catch dentists who claim payments for services they have not carried out.

But pharmacists have opposed similar plans in the past, saying they harm patient trust. Sandra Gidley from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "What if the computer says no? That is a real dilemma. 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.”

There appear to be no plans at present to extend this policy to dental practices, but the BDA warned earlier this year that low income patients were turning away from NHS dentistry “in droves”, thanks to a hostile environment cultivated to keep costs down. There are no details about how they will target dentists who claim payments for services they have not carried out.

The new approach, announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, will start with a pledge to halve prescription fraud, which costs the NHS £256 million He said: ‘The NHS is no longer an easy target and if you try to steal from it, you will face the consequences.’

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