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GPs told to do more to stop fraudulent claims for free prescriptions

GPs have been told to tighten up procedures to make sure their patients only claim free prescriptions when they are entitled to them, under moves to clamp down on fraudulent claims.

The NHS Business Services Authority said that '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’.

Under the rules for free prescriptions, patients with long-term medical conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a baby within the last 12 months must be named on a valid exemption certificate.

The Authority said that patients 'rely on' GPs to tell them if they are exempt from prescription charges, so GPs must inform them of their eligibility and provide with the forms promptly.

Brendan Brown, head of NHS Help with Health Costs at the NHS Business Services Authority, said: '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, and explaining to patients the importance of keeping their certificate up to date.'

He added that GPs and other practice staff are 'crucial to ensuring NHS money is spent only where it’s needed'.

Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said: '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.

'Agencies who continue to regard GPs as an endless fountain of free work are either blind to the crisis in general practice or don’t care about it.'

Readers' comments (26)

  • John Glasspool

    The most fraudulent thing going on in the NHS at the moment is one Jeremy Hunt.

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  • Is this not the dispensing pharmacist's job to check the patient is entitled to free scripts?

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  • Are we policemen with mind reading powers to stop fraud, Good look with that!

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  • GPs are ideally placed to...
    Plus the compliant suckers will do it for free as usual.

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  • As the excellent Malcolm Tucker would respond: NOMFUP

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  • 'The Authority said that patients 'rely on' GPs to tell them if they are exempt from prescription charges'

    Eh? What about all the underemployed pharmacists we keep getting told about? Surely they are as 'best placed' as anyone as they actually process the scripts and take payments!

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  • This is not a GP's job. This is the job of the pharmacy, even though I don't agree that it should be.

    Patients should take responsibility for their own situation and if they claim incorrectly then they face the penalty. When obtaining often expensive medications for nothing, it is not too much to ask for someone to find out why they don't pay.

    The IT surely exists to cross-check exemptions for a set time period. I am a member of a national gym company and when I give any of their gyms my name and other relevant details, they can tell I'm a member and exactly what I can access.

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  • Pay us and contract us to do it or count the three Fs in off.

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  • GPs and other practice staff are 'crucial to ensuring NHS money is spent only where it’s needed'...

    ... this will allow everybody else to spend the money on where it's not needed

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  • Nope, not my job.

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