The NHS Business Standards Authority (BSA) began the process of phasing out plastic exemption cards for prescription prepayment certificates and maternity exemption certificates in favour of digital or paper certificates last month.
However, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it is expected to take up to five years for the plastic cards to be fully phased out.
During this time, pharmacy teams should accept plastic, paper or digital exemptions, as long as they are within their expiry date, PSNC advised last week (March 5).
“Where patients do not have evidence or where there is doubt over whether the evidence provided is appropriate, mark the ‘evidence not seen’ box on the reverse of the prescription,” PSNC said.
“Pharmacy staff need not refuse to dispense items on the basis that the patient does not provide evidence of their entitlement to free prescriptions,” it stressed.
See the replacement double-sided A4 paper certificate.
Real-time exemption checking
In October, health secretary Matt Hancock said prescription exemptions would be digitised so pharmacists can help “thwart” patients who wrongfully claim free prescriptions.
PSNC stressed at the time that government plans for pharmacists to conduct “real-time exemption checking” should be seen as a “positive development”.
PSNC drug tariff and reimbursement manager Suraj Shah told C+D last week: “While the requirement to check proof of exemption from the NHS prescription charge will remain largely the same, in future we hope that the full rollout of real-time exemption checking will provide a more efficient exemption checking process for pharmacy staff.”