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COVID-19: No need for patients’ signature on scripts until March 2021

Pharmacists will still need to ask patients to prove that they are eligible for free prescriptions

The government has announced that, until March 31 next year, patients will no longer need to sign the back of NHS prescriptions or EPS tokens, to help limit COVID-19 transmissions.

The suspension of the need for the patient’s signatures on prescription, dental and general ophthalmic services forms in England, which came into force yesterday (November 1), is “part of the social distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus”, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said in an alert published yesterday.

The requirement was paused to “avoid cross-contamination and help minimise the handling of paperwork when collecting medicines or receiving dental and eye care”. It will apply for the next five months but will be “kept under review and may be extended”, the DH added.

Ask for evidence

Pharmacy contractors have been asked to confirm the patient’s eligibility for free prescriptions on the FP10 forms and EPS tokens, and patients should still be asked to prove if they are entitled to free NHS prescriptions.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said last week (October 30), that the NHS Business Services Authority will not switch “any unsigned paper prescription forms between exempt and chargeable groups” until the end of March 2021.

For this reason, PSNC asked contractors to check that “the reverse of every paper FP10 prescription form is clearly marked as exempt or paid and sorted into their correct exempt or chargeable groups before the bundle is dispatched to the relevant NHS prescription services division”.

Commenting on the PSNC announcement about the new policy on Twitter, some pharmacists wondered whether this change was introduced too late.

Others pointed out that they’ve signed forms on behalf of their patients for some time now.

Welcome decision

PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said the organisation – which had asked for the suspension to be introduced during the first wave of COVID-19 – welcomes the DH’s decision to “waive this requirement for a second wave” of COVID-19.

“For many months now pharmacy teams have understandably been concerned about infection control and this, coupled with massively increased workloads, has not been a conducive environment for collecting patient exemption declarations,” he added.

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (November 2) that “AIMp welcomes this move, particularly during this busy period where pharmacy teams find themselves once again on the frontline”.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley told C+D today that the RPS had been calling on the government “to pause the need for patients to sign prescriptions [to] reduce the risk of transmission in pharmacies” and to suspend prescription charges in England, “which will lift any financial burden that patients with long term conditions currently face”.

“Suspending patient signatures is a step in the right direction on prescription charges and we are continuing to discuss this with the government during the pandemic,” Ms Gidley added.

In May, PSNC had asked the DH and NHSBSA to “review their processes around the switching of paper prescriptions” to reduce the risk of infection for pharmacy teams in England.

What do you make of this announcement?

C A, Community pharmacist

Good new on this the 249th March 2020 the Government have done something to help pharmacy

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

Do we still have to get CD scripts signed ? Rang PSNC but they did not have the answer . They said they would ring back when they do have an answer .  I hope they ring  before March next year !  update 8/11 still no news . perhaps i should give them a month more to reply ?


Conor M, Community pharmacist

I've been writing 'pt collected' since March in there.

Stuart Reeve, Community pharmacist

If the wrong box is ticked who gets the fine?

Alexander The Great, Community pharmacist

We've been doing this since covid hit in december last year lol. What we need is to GET PAID for submitting scripts every evening. We used to bundle it all up and then they used machines to count, sort and submit... for some reason theyve managed to pass the buck to us, which takes longer than their machines and not as accurate.

I would guess that if my staff ticked the wrong box in 2-3% of cases and missed 1-2 scripts every night, that results in tons of unfair letters to the patients with threatening fines, and massive losses to my pharmacy for unsubmitted scripts!!!

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