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Community pharmacy services

Revised prescription forms with Universal Credit tick box to be introduced

Prescription forms have been updated to improve the process for those who are eligible for free prescriptions under Universal Credit.

New FP10 Paper Prescription Form


The new forms should make it easier to identify those who have a valid prescription charge exemption

New FP10 prescription forms that will be introduced from the end of January 2020 will include a tick box to indicate when free prescriptions can be claimed under Universal Credit (UC).

Including the UC state benefit on the forms was first announced in October 2017, but in March 2019 the government said the updated versions of FP10s were still “being prepared for testing”.

The lack of an option for UC on FP10 forms had been given as a reason for wrongly issued penalty fines for patients who were entitled to free prescriptions.

Currently, patients claiming UC can receive free prescriptions if their earnings during their most recent UC assessment period were less than £435, or less than £935 if their benefit includes an element for either a child or a limited capability for work.

On the updated FP10 forms, claimants can select box ‘U’ for ‘Universal Credit and meets the criteria’.

Previously, patients on UC were expected to select box ‘K’ for ‘gets income-based jobseekers’ allowance’.

John Kell, head of policy at the Patients Association, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the updated forms are “better late than never”.

“We know that the penalties system has been wrongly issuing fines to patients who are in fact entitled to free prescriptions, and the lack of an appropriate option for UC on FP10 forms has been a factor in this,” he said.

“Now that the new forms are here, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) needs to monitor their use to ensure they are having the desired effect, and not throwing up unintended consequences.”

Commenting on the delayed roll out, Brendan Brown, director of citizen services at NHS Business Services Authority (BSA), said that changes “to the form involves major system and software updates across the NHS”, adding that the government “needed to ensure [the form] was compatible with the scanners used by the NHS BSA to capture prescription form data”.

A National Audit Office report published in May 2019 listed UC as one of the factors contributing to “mistakes and confusion” when claiming free prescriptions.

The report found that 1.7 million penalty charge notices — issued for wrongly claiming free prescriptions — had been withdrawn after a valid exemption was confirmed.

Steve Brine, former health minister, said in a parliamentary answer in March 2019 that because there was no designated tick box for UC, it was not possible to confirm how many penalty charge notices have been issued to UC claimants alone and therefore, how many were issued to UC claimants who had a valid prescription charge exemption.

Overall, five changes have been made to the updated FP10 forms, including the removal of box ‘X’, which indicated the supply of free-of-charge contraceptives, as this is provided for in the National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations 2015 and no longer needs to be indicated.

Guidance on the new forms, which were published by the DHSC and NHS BSA, said: “The new paper FP10 will be in circulation from the end of January 2020, with updates to the EPS (electronic prescription service) following as soon as possible.”

The Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee added in a statement on its website that pharmacists “can continue to select the pre-existing EPS message codes for exemption categories until the changes have been made to dispensing systems”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207607

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