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Prescriptions: Fees and Charges

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases there have been of individuals claiming exemptions from prescription charges to which they are not entitled in the latest year for which figures are available; what procedures are used by the NHS to reclaim monies owed when such individuals are (a) on benefit and (b) have a low income; and if he will make a statement. (291351)

Information on the number of individuals claiming prescription exemptions to which they are not entitled is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The NHS Counter Fraud Service undertakes exercises to measure losses due to false claims for prescription charge evasion. The last such exercise examined claims made in 2007-08. This showed that 2 per cent. of claims for exemption were fraudulent.

Since August 2001, a penalty charge system has been in place in respect of those wrongly claiming exemption to NHS prescription charges. This involves recovering the original charge plus a penalty charge. Recoveries and collection of penalty charges are made by primary care trusts, in the first instance through a civil legal process.

Trusts have discretion to waive the penalty charge if the patient is in a vulnerable group or if there are other relevant circumstances in individual cases. In cases where payment of a penalty charge is pursued, patients on a low income may seek an agreement to pay in instalments.

Patients in receipt of benefits that do not qualify them for exemption to prescription charges and patients on low incomes may be eligible to apply for exemption from prescription charges under the NHS Low Income Scheme.