Prescription charges system needs overhaul says RPS in England

National Audit Office report highlights 30% fines withdrawn

Responding to the National Audit Office’s Investigation into penalty charge notices in healthcare, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England Sandra Gidley said:

“The National Audit Office has highlighted some important issues around prescription charge fines.

“It is important that we protect every single NHS pound so it can be spent on caring for the public. Pharmacists understand and support this. However, the NAO identifies the current system is too complicated and bureaucratic and there’s plenty of room for improvement. The system needs to be simplified before we start to criminalise those that make a genuine mistake navigating it. 

“Pharmacists should not be the prescription police – they want to spend their time helping people with their medicines rather than checking their exemption status.

“Ultimately, it would be much simpler to have free prescriptions for everyone, as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, because then no-one would have to worry about filling out a form of declaration. They would always have the medicines required, without having to make payment decisions.  It would also enable the investment in issuing and monitoring penalty charge notices to be  spent on patient care.

"The consequences of the relentless rise in prescription charges are well-known. Surveys from the Prescription Charges Coalition show that 1 in 3 people have not collected their prescription because of cost. If you can’t afford your medicines, you become more ill, which leads to poor health and expensive and unnecessary hospital admissions.

“Every day pharmacists are asked by patients who are unable to afford all the items their prescription which ones they could 'do without'.  Patients shouldn't have to make choices which involve rationing their medicines. No-one should be faced with a financial barrier to getting the medicines they need.”