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Prescriptions: Fees and Charges

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many people were prosecuted for illegally claiming exemption from NHS prescription charges in each of the last five years; (197942)

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of prescription fraud to the NHS in each of the last five years;

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of people illegally claiming exemption from NHS prescription charges in each of the last five years.

Since August 2001, a penalty charge system has been in place in respect of those falsely claiming exemption to national health service prescription charges. Financial recoveries are made in the first instance through a cost effective civil process rather than by criminal prosecution. There is an option for repeat offenders to be dealt with through criminal proceedings and to date there has been one criminal prosecution, in 2004.

Information on the number of people falsely claiming exemption from NHS prescription charges and the cost of prescription fraud to the NHS is not available in the format requested.

The NHS Counter Fraud Service (CFS) undertakes fraud risk measurement exercises on a statistically valid number of prescription exemption claims. These exercises are repeated to capture reductions in losses due to anti-fraud work. The last such exercise in England took place in 2002-03. This showed the number of claims found to be fraudulent to be 1.6 per cent. and that the loss to the NHS through prescription fraud had been reduced from £117 million in 1998-99 to £47 million in 2002-03. A further risk measurement exercise will be undertaken in 2008-09.