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People with diabetes fined for claiming free prescriptions

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Increasing numbers of people with diabetes in England are being fined by the NHS for claiming free prescription because they do not have the right paperwork.

All people in England aged between 18 – 60 who use insulin or medicine to manage their diabetes are entitled to claim free prescriptions, but many people with the condition are not aware that you must have a valid medical exemption to make a claim.

This is because the system for checking exemption from paying prescriptions has been poorly managed for years and the changes made in late 2014 badly communicated.

Along with people with diabetes, the awareness of the need for the certificate is also low among healthcare professionals, including pharmacists.

The responsibility for checking exemption from paying prescriptions was transferred to the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) last year, who have a much more thorough system than was previously the case.

This has led to many people who have had diabetes for a long time being issued with fines of up £100 despite not realising they needed a certificate.

Diabetes UK say that the current crackdown is unfair on people with diabetes, who are being penalised for a lack of effective communication and inconsistent administration of the policy from the NHS BSA and Department of Health.

The charity is calling for an amnesty on fines for people with diabetes until the need for a medical exemption certificate has been properly communicated by the NHS BSA and pharmacies.

Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: "We are deeply concerned that the NHS seems to be fining increasing numbers of people with diabetes for not having a valid medical exemption certificate who have not been informed about the need to have one and to keep it updated. This is a policy designed to tackle fraud but because of the poor way it has been implemented it has resulted in the unfair fining of people with a lifelong health condition. It is unacceptable and needs to change.

"We have met with the NHS Business Services Authority, which is issuing the fines, and it shares our concern about the number of people with diabetes who are being targeted. What we now need to see is for the NHS to urgently review this policy so that people with diabetes are told that they need to get and regularly renew their certificate and that they are given a warning in the first instance rather than being fined straight away. It also needs to cancel and reimburse the fines that have already been issued. Until it does this, people with diabetes will continue to be the innocent victims of a policy that has been poorly executed."

If you do not have a medical exemption certificate and you want to claim free prescriptions, you will need to get a form to apply for the certificate from your doctor's surgery. It you have been fined, you should contact the NHS BSA and dispute this and then take it up with your MP.

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