Nearly a million patients are overpaying for prescriptions because the NHS is failing to promote annual “season tickets” designed to save sick patients money, campaigners have said. A Freedom of Information Request by Moneysavingexpert.com found around 800,000 people are overpaying by an average of £50 a year because they do not have a prescription prepayment certificate. Prescription prepayment certificates let patients pay upfront for prescriptions in return for free ones at the end of the period, which can be up to 12 months.
Last night campaigners accused the NHS of failing to promote discounts which designed to provide financial assistance to some of the most vulnerable and sick people. Matina Loizou, Co-Chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition, which campaigns to end prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions, said: “It is unacceptable for the NHS to say they are helping by offering a discount they fail to promote.“While prepayment certificates offer some relief to those who can afford the upfront cost, they are not widely publicized. We speak to people who are forced to choose between purchasing medicine and heating their homes: something has to change.” Patients can apply for a season ticket by filling in a form online, at their GP surgery or by phoning a helpline. However in a survey conducted by the coalition some 40 per cent of respondents said they found out about the scheme more than a year after their diagnosis. By using a season ticket anybody paying for 13 or more items over the past year could have saved at least £5.20, calculations show. In the 2016/17 financial year prescription items cost £8.40 each with a 12 month PPC costing £104 for 12 months. Figures disclosed by the NHS Business Services Authority under the Freedom of Information Act show that 825,677 people in England paid for 13 or more prescription items in the 2016/17 financial year without a season ticket. On average these patients paid for 18 prescriptions, meaning they could have saved £47.20 a year. Season tickets are likely to most benefit patients with long-term life-changing illnesses like Parkinson’s, Ashma and Diabetes, who must pay for prescriptions in full. Other patients including those with cancer, serious disabilities and pregnant women qualify for free prescriptions. Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “A huge number of patients are paying more than they need to for medicine prescribed on the NHS. “To be fair many pharmacists and GPs do tell patients they can save using this scheme, but it’s clear there’s still a lack of awareness.”