The NHS cannot confirm how many Universal Credit (UC) claimants have received penalty charge notices over free prescriptions to which they were entitled.
A revised version of the FP10 prescription form, featuring a dedicated tick-box for use by UC claimants who meet the criteria for free NHS prescriptions, recently received Ministerial clearance.
But, responding to a Parliamentary question from Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford said that the revised form was to be introduced at the “earliest opportunity”.
The question wanted answers as to how many claimants may have received penalty charge notices when having a valid entitlement to a free prescription.
At present, both UC and income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants eligible for free NHS prescriptions tick an exemption box on the FP10 form to ensure they get the free prescriptions to which they are entitled.
She said: “As a result, the NHS Business Services Authority is not able to confirm how many penalty charge notices have been issued to UC Claimants, and therefore how many were issued to UC claimants who had a valid prescription charge exemption.”
And where any change to the form involves major system and software updates across the NHS, the revised paper form was “being prepared for testing” ahead of introduction “at the earliest opportunity”, she said.
Last month, Baroness Manzoor offered a written response referencing the “wide range of activity” undertaken to publicise what eligible claimants should do until FP10 was updated to include a new UC tick box.
Information that, Baroness Manzoor said, had been shared with relevant professionals including DWP work coaches and case managers, Citizens Advice advisers and pharmacists to enable them to support claimants correctly.
“Arrangements have also been made to ensure that, if UC claimants accidentally tick the wrong box on the form but can prove their eligibility for free NHS prescriptions, the NHS Business Services Authority is able to waive associated penalty charges upon being contacted,” she said.