In England, people aged between 18 and 60 who use insulin or tablets to manage their diabetes are entitled to claim free prescriptions, but must apply for and present a valid medical exemption certificate.
A lack of awareness amongst people with diabetes has led to a common, and understandable misconception, that having diabetes treated by medication or insulin alone was the criteria for claiming free prescriptions. Despite the large proportion of people with diabetes and healthcare professionals not being aware that free prescriptions must be claimed with a medical exemption certificate, fines of up to £100 have been imposed when patients are not able to present one.
Health Minister Dan Poulter has recently committed the Government to changing the system for checking free prescriptions to stop people with diabetes falling foul of the misconception.
In recognition that many people with diabetes are being affected by the current 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 with a plan to ensure that a higher level of awareness is achieved and people with diabetes are clearly informed that they need an exemption certificate.
Diabetes UK have been campaigning and are working towards getting the Government to introduce a fairer system as a matter of urgency.
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”.
It is not clear whether any fines that have been issued already will be cancelled and reimbursed along with the prescription charges. Diabetes UK are pushing for the new system to be implemented immediately and hope to ensure that fines issued to date will be reimbursed.
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