GPs have been asked to make sure patients know when they are and are not entitled to free prescriptions.
In a move to cut back on fraudulent claims, the NHS Business Authority has clarified which patients are eligible and how they can be certified.
They said: “Patients with a qualifying long-term medical condition, pregnant women and those who have had a baby within the last 12 months must be named on a valid exemption certificate in order to qualify for free prescriptions.”
Patients are able to apply for these certificates using “controlled forms” that NHS England supplies to GP practices.
Brendan Brown, head of NHS Help with Health Costs at the NHS Business Services Authority, said this process makes the roles of GPs and other practice staff “crucial to ensuring NHS money is spent only where it’s needed”.
He said: “Although NHS Help with Health Costs publications are widely available and information is published on NHS Choices, some patients remain unaware of the eligibility criteria for exemption from prescription charges and rely on medical professionals to relay this information.
“GPs can help reduce the risk of those patients claiming free prescriptions incorrectly by notifying patients of their eligibility, signing and submitting applications for exemption certificates as soon as the qualifying condition is diagnosed or pregnancy is confirmed, and explaining to patients the importance of keeping their certificate up to date.”
The NHS Business Services Authority said that they issue medical and maternity exemption certificates.
The authority explained: “They are backdated by one month from the date the application is received to allow time for the application process, so patients should pay for their prescriptions and ask for an NHS refund receipt (form FP57) while waiting for a certificate to arrive. Any community pharmacy can then refund the charges.”