The penalty charge notice system in England, which fines people up to £100 for wrongly alleging a free prescription, is not fit for purpose and it needs to be checked upon on and off.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee also demanded plans to introduce real-time checking for prescription charge exemptions in community pharmacies, which are present in the pilot trial stage to be the priority. The committee also alleged the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England of being shockingly complacent about the problems of the present PCNs, adding that the two bodies have lost sight of the basic importance of helping people get what they are supposed to, and they need to fundamentally reappraise how they can be more impactful and humbly pursue these goals. They have called on NHS England and the NHS Business Services Authority to pursue the plans as a priority, increase the present pilot scheme, work on the results and present the committee with a timetable for its widespread introduction. Meg Hillier MP, who chairs the committee, stated a presumption of guilt means penalty charge notices are issued too readily. There has been a failure to take effective action where there is clear evidence that people are persistently committing fraud by making false claims,
The committee also wants proof from the NHS and government departments about how many patients fail to seek treatment for fear of being issued with a PCN fine, and those who fail to claim the exemption they are entitled to and end up in the hospital. England should follow Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and offer free prescriptions to all patients, so they always have the medicine they need without having to make payment decisions.