AN NHS campaign to clamp down on people who incorrectly claim free prescriptions has been backed by health chiefs in East Lancashire.

The ‘Check Before You Tick’ scheme, launched on Monday (September 10), will encourage patients to check whether they are entitled to free prescriptions before claiming them.

It aims to help reduce the £256million cost per year to the NHS when people incorrectly claim prescriptions for free.

Anyone incorrectly claiming a free prescription risks a penalty charge of up to £100 from the NHS Business Services Authority which carries out prescription checks each month.

Dr Paul Fourie, of Witton Medical Centre in Blackburn, supported the move but called for the prescription system to be ‘simplified’.

He said: “In Scotland and Wales, prescriptions are free, whereas in England some people pay and others don’t.

“Either making prescriptions free or charging them at the same rate for everyone will simplify the system and reduce the confusion that could cause patients to claim for a free prescription.

“I support the scheme as it’s important that people who are expected to pay do so.”

Dr David Wrigley, a Carnforth GP, and Lancashire’s representative on the British Medical Association, said: “There is no harm in a patient information campaign to help patients know if they are eligible for free prescriptions or not.”

Hyndburn’s health boss Cllr Munsif Dad said the law should apply for everyone.

He said: “Those who are entitled to prescriptions on low incomes should get them but there is law and procedure that applies here.

“Those who should be paying for prescription should do so as it will save the NHS money.

“There are people who genuinely don’t know if they’re entitled to free prescriptions and it’s important that campaigns like this help inform them.”

The campaign has been launched by NHS England and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).

Patients are entitled to free prescriptions if they are under 16 years old or 16, 17 or 18 and in full time education, or over 60.

Certain illnesses can also exempt a patient from prescription charges as well as being pregnant or having a baby under one year, while some benefits qualify people for free prescriptions.

Alison O’Brien, head of loss recovery services, from NHSBSA, said: “The NHS loses millions each year through fraudulent and incorrect claims for free prescriptions. On behalf of NHS England, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) checks claims randomly and retrospectively in order to appropriately recover funds and return them to NHS services. We encourage all patients to check their entitlement before claiming free prescriptions and our online tool provides support to understand if they are eligible.”

The campaign will see patients able to access an online tool to help them understand the government’s eligibility criteria for free prescriptions, while pharmacists will get a communications toolkit, posters, and point of sale materials to display in their pharmacy to explain the rules.