Fines that are issued to patients in England claiming free NHS prescriptions while not eligible have doubled.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) issued a total of 979,210 fines in 2016-17, an increase of nearly 100%, with 494,129 fines issued in 2015-16.
England is the only country in the UK to still charge for prescriptions. The charge is currently £8.60 for each medicine or appliance dispensed.
Why are patients fined? Patients can be fined a maximum of £100 for obtaining free medication after an exemption certificate has expired or when the patient is not entitled to free prescriptions at all.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said those on low incomes and with long-term illnesses were often hit and say no patient should have to pay for their care.
Dr Richard Vautrey, of the BMA, said; “Fining people should be a last resort. Often those people who may be fined are probably the least able to afford to pay. They’re often people who have multiple conditions who may need regular prescriptions and that costs an awful lot of money.”
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said fines often stemmed from patients not knowing or forgetting to renew their paperwork and largely rely on people’s honesty when dispensing medicines free-of-charge.
The NHSBSA said it was the patient’s responsibility to ensure they were entitled to claim free-of-charge prescriptions.