An average of two minutes per request is saved when an exemption is confirmed digitally

After a successful pilot with 40 pharmacies, an NHS electronic system that enables real time exemption checking service for prescriptions is now being rolled out nationally.

The Real Time Exemption Checking (RTEC) service immediately shows whether a patient needs to pay for their prescription or not, a task pharmacists are now carrying out manually during dispensing.

It is applied to prescriptions sent by the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) and currently covers medical, maternity, low-income scheme and tax credit exemptions, as well as prescription prepayment certificates. A pilot involving the Department for Work and Pensions benefit exemption checking is underway.

The service has been developed by NHS Digital and the NHS Business Services Authority while the integration and piloting were done using a dispensing system supplied by Positive Solutions.

As the service is now being expanded to other pharmacies, other dispensing system providers are expected to develop their RTEC systems throughout the year.

Alison O’Brien, Head of Exemption Checking Services at the NHS Business Services Authority, said: “Customers and pharmacists have told us they welcome an automated check being made in the pharmacy when claiming free prescriptions. We’re pleased that the pilot was such a success, and now more pharmacies and customers will be able to benefit from the advantages of real time checking.”

An average of two minutes per request is saved when an exemption is confirmed digitally, which has so far saved over 4,500 hours of pharmacy staff time.

Patients can easily make sure that they are exempt from paying for the prescription without spending a lot of time at the counter.

Ian Lowry, Director of Product Development at NHS Digital, said: “It is great to be able to build on the success of electronic prescription service in this way, improving the service for patients and driving efficiencies in prescription processing.”

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