Responding to the publication by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee of their report ‘Penalty charge notices in healthcare,’ Ravi Sharma, Director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said:
“This damning report from the Public Accounts Committee rightly condemns a system of fines which is not fit for purpose.
“When patients are fined for claiming free prescriptions, either because of administrative mistakes or genuine human error, they’re the ones who suffer.
“The system needs to be simplified before we start to criminalise those that make a mistake navigating it. Pharmacists want to spend their time helping people with their medicines, rather than checking their exemption status. We don’t want to be the prescription police. Nor do we want to be in the position of potentially having to refuse to supply a medicine to a patient simply because they haven’t brought the right paperwork with them.
“Additionally the exemption criteria for prescriptions has not been reviewed for the past 51 years. They are out of date, arbitrary and unfair.
“Prescription charges in England disproportionately penalise working people on low incomes. At a cost of £9 per item prescribed, pharmacists are familiar with patients presenting their prescription to ask ‘which one of these medicines can I do without?’ England should follow Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and offer free prescriptions to all patients, so they always have the medicines they need without having to make payment decisions.
“It’s right that those who deliberately commit fraud face penalties. However, focus should also be put on helping those who mistakenly pay for their prescription to claim when they are eligible.”