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NHS Prescription Penalty Charge

Rainbows asked:

Hi folks,

The NHS just hit me with a penalty charge for what they perceive to be a fraudulent attempt to evade the prescription charge of £7.10 or whatever it is on a prescription I handed in this summer. I was on what is now Employment and Support Allowance (called incapacity benefit then), although I am not on it anymore. In the past, the lady at the pharmacist always told me I could just tick a box on the back of the prescription which made me exempt from the charge, so I always did and everything was fine.

Anyway, I filled this prescription at a different pharmacist to normal, but I thought everything would be fine. Well last week, out of the blue, I receive a letter from the NHS telling me I have fraudulently claimed exemption from the prescription charge and they are now charging me £45.90 for their troubles.

For those not in the know, this is how the system works: there are a number of criteria for which you can claim exemption from the 7.10 per item prescription charge. Certain medical conditions such as cancer make you eligible for free prescriptions, as does being under 16 years of age, as well as the receipt of certain benefits such as income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-based Employment and Support Allowance. Normal contribution-based JSA/ESA is not one of them however, and this has apparently caught quite a few people out.

Anyhow, I am in the camp of people who was never entitled to free prescriptions, although I thought I was (although I admit I always thought it was sketchy and was never sure, but I went with what the pharmacist told me and never said anything).

I currently don’t have any income; no job, no benefits, nothing. I cannot claim JSA until late January for reasons I won’t bother going into in this post for the sake of keeping it on-topic. So I am not paying this money to them. At least not until I start getting an income next year.

My question is, is there any legal way to get out of paying this. Can I somehow use the copyright procedure or something like that to get them off my back. They say that if I don’t pay within 28 days they will take me to court. I will probably go to the Citizens Advice Bureau and get their perspective on it, but I would appreciate any suggestions here too.

Thanks all!

Gelhi replied:

There are a number of things you could do:

If your skint then make a statutory decleration or get an affidavit done declaring your position and understanding that you were following the guidance and expertise of the chemist and knew no better, i would also look into the relationship you have with the NHS as an organ of the state – possibly you need to revoke and rescind any POA they have, but thats maybe later on for you if you are not sure.

Worst case scenario is they take you to court and you will be liable but if you start engaging in ADR alternate dispute resolution with them then that will help you if it ends up in court and the fact you skint is going to mean you should get a reprieve of some sort if you play it right, there are normally time limits so read everything carefully that you have recieved – end of the day if you are new to this i would limit damage until you are more certain how this all works and who you are in the mix, at the moment they see your standing as a trustee and a wayward employee who broke company rules .

Dont bother with contract law you took the benefits thats a constructive use but you can show it wasnt your fault, The HMCS will realise you are not that profitable to them and wonder why they are dealing with it esp when you tried to resolve it before court.

Rainbows replied:

Thanks for your excellent response! I don’t understand some of the things you said or the terms you are using. How do I make a “statutory declaration” or get an affidavit done? What is “POA” and how do I revoke or rescind it?

I know I’m newbie at all this but I don’t understand half the legal jargon which is used. I have 28 days from the date of the letter (27th Novemeber 2012) to respond to them before they add more charges. That means I’ve got until Christmas before they add another £19 or so.

Rainbows replied:


Rainbows replied:

Right then, I guess I’ll work it out for myself. Thanks anyway Gelhi.

ceylon replied:

POA pay on arrival

andymoore replied:

Power of Attorney!

ceylon replied:

haha yea that to 😆

Rainbows replied:

^^Well since I didn’t think this thread was getting any attention I haven’t checked into this forum for a while, but thank you, I appreciate your response.

I haven’t payed this or even responded to them yet, so I am anticipating another letter from them very soon. Can I just send them the remittance slip (in one of the pictures above) accepted for value, with a promissory note for the same amount?

Or, if I am to make a statutory declaration or an affidavit, what will the declaration be? That the chemist told me everything was cushty and that I have no income?

kimcheeman replied:

Hi there, I have just recieved a very similar letter from the NHS , just wondering how you got on?

best wishes-

kittiebelle replied:

You can make a statutory declaration by going to the magistrated court. Google search it for the procedure, or ring the court, I have not ever used this procedure although i have spoken to others who have, although i am not sure of its application in this case.

Affidavit is your sworn declaration of the facts witnessed by 3 others of good standing, or you can get it notarised.

gem is saying that you have already contracted because you have accepted the benefits – by this i am assuming s/he means the free prescription, as your esa is a contract with the dwp not the nhs – so no point tackling it from that angle, but is this fine made apparent in the literature that you signed or on the reverse of the prescription?

maybe a challenge on the basis of all fines and forfits being void under bill of rights.

We can not tell you what to do, or what to say in your affidavit. Maybe do some research and write a letter challenging this yourself and then post up so people might be able to comment

Good luck

williamitwasreallynothing replied:

I’ve received an almost identical letter with a similar “fine”. I’m willing to pay the original NHS charge but I do think that the fine is disproportionate considering it was the result of a genuine mistake.

Does anybody have anymore in depth advice on what I should do? How likely is it that they will persue me for a £92 fine? And if they do, what should i do then?


williamitwasreallynothing replied:

Bump…Does anybody have any advice on this for a total beginner? I’ve just received a final warning with a £50 surcharge. What will happen if I just ignore the letters?

Any help is appreciated, thanks.

zark replied:

if you ignore I am guessing that following IDS compassionate approach to all, the system will try and squash you

the other thing to consider is the declaration you signed it will say that you will be liable for ‘appropriate action’ — appropriate is very vague

as gehli wrote entering into a offer /counter offer to settle th ematter will be a good step forward

also which box did you tick???

never EVER admit to fraud ….. never EVER admit to anything other than what is ticked on the form …….
do not say “I thought I was covered”

the £45 or whatever admin fee is their ‘appropriate’ action …. maybe suggest that you should have been noticed that nhs counter fraud or whomever believed your claim to be in error so that you could have attended to it immediately.
remember the form says nothing about specific charges for such a thing

is a good word …..

its a get out of shit free card



williamitwasreallynothing replied:

I didn’t fill the box in myself but I think the woman ticked the JSA box. I was on JSA the last time i went to the dentist.

How would i go about making a counter offer to settle?

zark replied:

just write down the facts as you recall,

write down what you expected i.e being informed that the company believed there was an incorrectness

then write down that you feel that the additional charges are not appropriate

then write down that you do not accept you acted fraudulently however after the situation being explained in a different way to you believed you are willing to pay £x.xx so that the issue can be resolved.

stapel the cheque to the offer

thats that.

you did sign the declaration so perform within that declaration

dunno really its worth the effort of the letter