The Health Minister Dan Poulter has committed the Government to changing the system for checking free prescriptions to stop people with diabetes being unfairly fined.
Since September, thousands of people with diabetes have been fined up to £100 for claiming free prescriptions because they did not have a valid medical exemption certificate. This is despite a large proportion of people with diabetes and healthcare professionals not being aware that free prescriptions must be claimed with an exemption certificate.
Process to be changed
In recognition that many people with diabetes are falling foul of the system, Mr Poulter has asked the NHS Business Services Authority to change the process so that fines will be cancelled if people submit a valid application for a medical exemption certificate within 60 days of being contacted. He has also agreed to do more to let people with diabetes know that they need an exemption certificate.
Diabetes UK has welcomed the move as we have been campaigning to get the Government to introduce a fairer system. We are now calling on the Government to introduce the new system as a matter of urgency and is seeking assurance from the Minister that fines issued to date will be reimbursed.
Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “It is good news that a decision has been made to change the system to prevent people with diabetes being penalised for not having a medical exemption certificate when, in most cases, they have not been told they need one. This is medication that is critical to their health and so we are pleased that the Government now recognises the need to change the way this is being handled.
“We will be meeting with the Minister to make sure the new system is fit for purpose, and to help with enhancing the communications from NHS to ensure everyone with diabetes knows that they need a medical exemption certificate. We will be pushing for the new system to be implemented immediately.
More clarity needed on existing fines
"However, it is not yet clear whether those fines that have been issued to people with diabetes already will be cancelled and reimbursed along with the prescription charges. It would be unfair if those whom the system had penalised before the changes were not reimbursed for the prescription charges and fines they shouldn’t have had to pay."
In England, people aged between 18 and 60 who use insulin or medicine to manage their diabetes are entitled to claim free prescriptions, but must apply for and present a valid medical exemption certificate.