Failing to truthfully declare whether you are entitled to claim an exemption from prescription charges for items such as medicines, dental treatment, sight tests and glasses, could prove more costly than you think.
That’s the cautionary advice from the NHS Counter Fraud Service in Somerset who served 836 patients with a penalty notices after they falsely stated they were exempt from prescription charges.
Dishonestly claiming exemption from the £8.05p prescription charge might seem insignificant, but over £14,000 was recovered in fines last year in Somerset, with the loss of funds to the NHS in England amounting to many millions of pounds.
Patients who falsely claim exemption will be asked to pay back the prescription charge plus five times the original fee (to a maximum £100 fine). A further charge of £50 is incurred if payment is not made within 28 days. This means that a prescription costing just £8.05could end up costing £48.30 if the patient is found to have falsely claimed for help with health costs that they were not entitled to.
NHS Counter Fraud specialist, Andy Knight, explains: “We recognise that patients’ can and do make genuine mistakes when it comes to declaring whether they are or are not exempt from prescription charges. Of the sample 10,000 prescription forms we checked last year almost 14% were not eligible for exemption. This was significantly less than the previous year when 22% of those sampled proved to be false.
“The work carried out by our Counter Fraud Compliance Team shows a reduction in the overall levels of patient charge evasion during 2013/14, but there still remains a significant level of patient charge evasion to be addressed.”
Patients and carers can find out more about help with prescription costs by visiting the NHS Choices web site at: www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/Prescriptioncosts.aspx