New coloured prescription forms, with serial numbers, are to be distributed to the NHS in a drive to combat prescription fraud, health minister Alan Milburn recently announced.
The new forms are intended to tackle the losses incurred by the NHS through theft and counterfeiting, estimated at £15 million every year.
Some GPs’ surgeries have been burgled with only prescription forms being taken, allowing organised criminals to obtain drugs free of charge.
The latest forms will have UV-sensitive markings and serial numbers to make it difficult to photocopy and duplicate replicas. The serial numbers will help conviction in theft cases as stolen forms will be recorded, and therefore be instantly identifiable.
Microwriting on the form will also make counterfeiting difficult as the writing can only be seen under a strong magnifying glass or microscope.
The prescriptions will also react to ink-erasing chemicals to prevent fraudsters altering the doctor’s writing or making any other physical alteration to the prescription form.
The old plain white form had remained essentially unchanged since 1948 and had no protection – with criminals able to copy it as there were no features to distinguish counterfeits from the originals.
Milburn said the Government was carrying out its promise to take action against prescription fraud.
“The new forms are just the start. Over this year, we will be unveiling measure after measure which will work to stamp out prescription fraud. Life for fraudsters is going to get very tough,” he added.
The department has also initiated discussions with pharmacists about a reward scheme to identify counterfeited, tampered and stolen forms at pharmacy level before they enter the system and cost the NHS money.
It is hoped that as a result of these talks a scheme will be operational later this year.