The NHS BSA has completed the rollout of the RTEC system’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) functionality, which allows the more than 9,000 pharmacies using it to check patients’ eligibility for free prescriptions.
Patients receiving benefits from the DWP – including universal credit – will no longer need to specify they are exempt from prescription fees on an electronic prescription service (EPS) token, “saving time for patients and pharmacy teams”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) wrote in an update today (July 11).
The DWP is responsible for administering a variety of working age, disability, and ill-health benefits.
This includes: income support; income-based job seeker’s allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; pension credit guaranteed credit; and universal credit. Those receiving these benefits do not have to pay for NHS prescriptions.
The RTEC system was initially piloted by four pharmacies in 2019.
It was then rolled out nationally, enabling pharmacies to digitally check for maternity, medical, pre-payment, low-income scheme and HMRC exemptions as part of phase one of the gradual rollout.
The addition of the DWP functionality comes at a time when the Department of Health and Social Care is looking into potentially charging those aged 60 to 65 for prescriptions until they reach the state pension age of 66.
RTEC saves time
PSNC said that pharmacies who are digitally checking patients’ exemption status report a saving in staff time, “as patients do not need to complete the declaration on an EPS token when an exemption is found”.
PSNC regional representative and community pharmacy contractor in Leeds David Broome said: “The rollout of the DWP for our pharmacy team has been a positive development, helping reduce the amount of paperwork that my team and patients have to deal with and in turn the environmental impact of our operations.
“Whereas I used to send my paperwork bundle to the NHS BSA in a large box, I now send this in an envelope!”
However, the process of pharmacies checking patients’ exemption status has previously come under fire from the sector, with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society stressing pharmacists should “not be expected to police the prescription exemptions system”.