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pharmacist scanning perscriptionFebruary 25 2015

Increasing numbers of patients with diabetes are being fined for claiming exemption from prescription charges without having an up-to-date medical certificate, claims Diabetes UK.

The charity says the crackdown is unfair on people with diabetes because changes made to the system late in 2014 have been “badly communicated”. However, it also says “the system for checking exemption from paying prescriptions has been poorly managed for years.”

In a statement issued this week, Diabetes UK says: “The responsibility for checking exemption from paying prescriptions was transferred to the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) last year, who have a much more thorough system than was previously the case.

“This has led to many people who have had diabetes for a long time being issued with fines of up £100 despite not realising they needed a certificate.”

Diabetes UK is calling for an amnesty on fines for people with diabetes until the need for a medical exemption certificate has been properly communicated by NHS BSA and pharmacies.

Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “We are deeply concerned that the NHS seems to be fining increasing numbers of people with diabetes for not having a valid medical exemption certificate who have not been informed about the need to have one and to keep it updated.

“This is a policy designed to tackle fraud but because of the poor way it has been implemented it has resulted in the unfair fining of people with a lifelong health condition. It is unacceptable and needs to change.

“We have met with the NHS Business Services Authority, which is issuing the fines, and it shares our concern about the number of people with diabetes who are being targeted. What we now need to see is for the NHS to urgently review this policy so that people with diabetes are told that they need to get and regularly renew their certificate and that they are given a warning in the first instance rather than being fined straight away.

“It also needs to cancel and reimburse the fines that have already been issued. Until it does this, people with diabetes will continue to be the innocent victims of a policy that has been poorly executed.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesman Neal Patel said that pharmacists want to be talking to patients about their condition and their medicines, not having conversations about fines.

“No-one should be labelled a ‘fraudster’ just because they have forgotten to renew their medical exemption certificate. People need better access to their medicines, not a financial penalty for a minor mistake,” he said.

“The effect of this fine is to punish people with long-term conditions for their illness. We’d like to see a far more constructive approach which supports and informs patients rather than makes them bear the bureaucratic burden of an unfair system.”

Diabetes UK is advising patients who do not have a medical exemption certificate and who want to claim free prescriptions to get a form for the certificate from their doctor’s surgery. It is also advising patients: “If you have been fined, you should contact the NHS BSA and dispute this and then take it up with your MP.”

Links:

Diabetes UK announcement    

RPS comment    

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