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Ensure your patients have a medical exemption certificate

2 April 2015

Growing numbers of people with diabetes are being fined up to £100 for claiming free prescriptions, despite using insulin or medicine to manage their diabetes. This is because they do not have a medical exemption certificate.

Following a Diabetes UK campaign, the process has changed and if people are issued with a fine, they do now have the chance to apply for a certificate to prove their eligibility and have the fine cancelled. However, if people claim a free prescription without a medical exemption certificate they will have to pay for that prescription.

Why is this happening?

The prescription exemption checking service was centralised in 2014, following years of administration at a local level. This led to the large number of people with diabetes being fined. It also revealed a widespread lack of awareness amongst people with diabetes and healthcare professionals about the need for medical exemption certificates. The long-term lack of enforcement had led to a common, and understandable misconception, that having diabetes treated by medication or insulin alone was the criteria for claiming free prescriptions.

What can I do about it?

As a GP: If you are a GP, you have responsibility for signing and submitting the application forms for the medical exemption certificate, FP92A. So, please make sure all your patients have completed this.

As a Pharmacist: You have a crucial role for checking that people do have a certificate when they collect their prescription. If people do not have a certificate pharmacists should advise people to pay for their prescription and to take a FP57 receipt and refund form. This way they can apply for a certificate, which is backdated by one month from issue, and claim back for that prescription once the certificate has been issued.

What should I advise people with diabetes to do?

The most important thing is to advise people that if they are claiming free prescriptions they must have a medical exemption certificate. Please direct them to our free prescriptions page in our Guide to Diabetes section which will tell them what to do if they don't have a certificate and what to do if they're fined.

For more information on medical exemption certificates, including contact details if you need to pay a fine, visit the NHS NBA website.