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Digital system may prevent £300m prescription fraud losses for NHS by 2020

Published on 15/10/18 at 11:03am

The British government are launching a new digitised system aimed at cracking down on prescription fraud in the NHS. However pharmacists are warning that the new system may cause a loss in patient trust.

The new system will allow pharmacists to instantly verify which patients are entitled to free medicines. While currently patients either present an exemption certificate or sign the back of their prescription stating that they do not have to pay the £8.80 prescription charge, the digitised system would allow pharmacists to look up patients on the digital exemption database, before they hand over the medicine.

As of now the NHS Business Authority runs random checks after the medication has been dispensed to patients.  However the number of £100 fines issued for false claims doubled, with 900,000 penalties issues in 2016-17 with half as many the year before.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “The message is clear. The NHS is no longer an easy target and if you try to steal from it you will face the consequences.”

However pharmacists have criticised the new system suggested that people with long-term illnesses and those on low incomes were most likely to be affected.

Sandra Gidley from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society commented: “What if the computer says no? That is a real dilemma. Sometimes somebody has free prescriptions legitimately, they've got a medical exception - they're something like a diabetic - and they might forget to renew it and the computer says no. You're not going to stop a diabetic from getting their insulin, for example. So I think this is potentially fraught with problems.”

Nevertheless, fraud is estimated to cost the NHS £1.2 billion each year. The digitalised prescription system is hoped to save £300 million by April 2020.

Louis Goss

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