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Long-term conditions lead to prescription fines in England

20 Feb 2015

National news reports are calling attention to prescription fines being handed to people with long-term conditions. These fines have been charged to people who didn’t renew their exemption certificates – but were never asked to

In England, people with long-term conditions such as epilepsy are able to get their prescribed drugs free of charge. Each person is issued with a medical exemption certificate, which proves that they do not need to pay.

A new system governing these certificates was introduced in 2002. Under the new system, people with long-term conditions are still entitled to collect their prescriptions free of charge. However, they were required to renew their exemption certificate every five years.

Prescription drugsThe crucial thing that the new system didn’t do was remember to tell people about the change. As a result, many people are currently holding expired certificates because they were never told to renew them.

Despite the new system coming in over a decade ago, the NHS only appointed a department to police expired certificates in September 2014. Since then, hundreds of people with diabetes holding expired certificates have reported picking up their free prescriptions – only to then receive £100 fines for non-payment.

Epilepsy Action is not currently aware of a large number of people with epilepsy being affected. However, the organisation advises people to check whether their medical exemption certificate is active. If it is not, find out how to renew your medical exemption certificate.

In an article at bbc.co.uk Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This is a policy designed to tackle fraud, but because of the poor way it has been implemented it has resulted in the unfair fining of people with a lifelong health condition.”

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