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Nurses should be aware of free prescription rules

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Fines for free prescriptions have been changed Fines for free prescriptions have been changed

Nurses must ensure that patients with diabetes are aware that to claim free prescriptions, they must have a valid medical exemption certificate, or they could face a fine.

In England, people with diabetes aged between 18 and 60 who use medicine to manage their diabetes are entitled free prescriptions but must apply for and present a valid medical exemption certificate. Diabetes UK has said that many patients and healthcare professionals are unaware of this, which has led to patients being fined up to £100.

Since the charges were introduced, several thousand people with diabetes have been fined, as few understood that a valid medical exemption certificate is required. However, Dr Dan Poulter, undersecretary for health, has now instructed the NHS Business Services Authority to change the system so that if a patient applies for a valid medical exemption certificate within 60 days of the fine being issued, it will be cancelled.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: 'It is good news that a decision has been made to change the system to prevent people with diabetes being penalised for not having a medical exemption certificate when, in most cases, they have not been told they need one. This is medication that is critical to their health and so we are pleased that the government now recognises the need to change the way this is being handled.'

Ms Young also said that it was unknown if people who had already been fined would be reimbursed. She said: 'It is not yet clear whether those fines that have been issued to people with diabetes already will be cancelled and reimbursed along with the prescription charges. It would be unfair if those whom the system had penalised before the changes were not reimbursed for the prescription charges and fines they shouldn't have had to pay.'

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