Helping patients avoid NHS Penalty Charges – #Checkbeforeyoutick


Your LPC has been hearing that many patients are receiving penalty notices from NHS BSA as their exemption claims have not been verified. Cases coming to the LPC included one where the contractor processed a pre-payment certificate application, but entered the incorrect start date on the system; as a new item was submitted, the certificate had expired unknown to both patient and pharmacy.
The problem has also been highlighted on the BBC Radio 4 Money Box finance programme – listen from around 11 minutes 25 seconds in; the case featured involved a pharmacy completing an exemption in advance of patient collection – and the patient no longer had a pre-payment certificate.

What is the message?

We want patients be actively aware that:

  • They should not just assume that they are eligible for free NHS prescriptions, and always check their eligibility before making a claim. We want to draw attention to this as patients sometimes don’t realise that certain benefits have expiry dates, benefits change over time, etc.
  • There is a possible consequence of making an incorrect claim – a penalty charge of up to £100.

So, how can patients determine their eligibility?

  • The campaign directs patients to search ‘check before you tick’ online. Once there, they have access to two applications which they can use to determine whether they currently hold a NHSBSA exemption or whether they could be entitled to help (with directions on how to apply).
  • If patients do not have access to this digital route, they are directed to their pharmacy team. Toolkits were sent to all pharmacists in September 2018, including posters, guidance booklets, counter cards and shelf wobblers.
  • Additional guidance booklets are available in a format for patients to take away. The contact details are: or call 0333 014 2884. Additional campaign resources can also be downloaded from the campaign resource centre:

What can pharmacists do to help patients?

  1. Ensure campaign materials are displayed prominently – use the link above to access further campaign resources if necessary.
  2. Encourage patients to check their entitlement prior to making a claim/completing the declaration on the prescription.
  3. Ask to see proof of eligibility when assisting patients with the exemption status on the back of a prescription.
  4. Keep PMR records on exemption status up-to-date – remember electronic claims for EPS scripts will be processed according to this information.
  5. Remind those collecting prescriptions on someone else’s behalf to check the eligibility of the person they are claiming for before they tick.
  6. If the patient is not sure if their exemption allows them to claim free prescriptions, to avoid receiving a penalty charge, it is always best to better to get them pay at the time and provide them with an FP57 form along with information on how to claim a refund later.

Finally, PSNC have recently run their Prescription Charge Exemption and Switching Webinar, which is now available on demand – CLICK HERE to watch.