Patients may soon have to prove that they are eligible for free prescriptions under new plans outlined by the Health Minister, Alan Milburn last month.
The Government is to make it an offence for patients to evade prescription charges. There will be a fixed charge for non-payment.
It is anticipated that a “fraud supremo” within the Department of Health (DoH) will be appointed in the near future. A spokesman for the DoH said the fraud supremo would implement a “vigorous and effective programme of action in all parts of the NHS.”
Pharmacists and doctors said this move could damage relationship between patients and their GPs as well as creating yet more paperwork and bureaucracy.
The British Medical Association renewed a call for a full review of the whole system of prescription charges and exemptions.
The DoH estimates that £90m is lost every year through prescription fraud.
The DoH has issued a helpline for patients who think they may have been mistakenly claiming exemption. Also members of the public and NHS staff can report suspected cases of prescription fraud on a confidential telephone hotline as well as on a specially designed Internet site.