(Photo: ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

In the wake of persisting Covid-19 pandemic, the government has temporarily suspended the requirement for patients to sign the back of NHS prescription forms or EPS tokens.

The order will remain in place initially until March 31, 2021.

The latest decision is part of the social distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus and to assist in the management of a situation which is serious risk or potentially serious risk to human health during the virus pandemic.

“The changes will be kept under review and further extensions may be granted if there continues to be a cross infection risk. The temporary suspension will be lifted once it is deemed safe for patients to resume signing of forms,” the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

Whilst the suspension is active, pharmacy teams have been advised to mark the relevant exempt or paid category on the FP10 form or EPS token on behalf of the patient. This procedure is not required if a real time exemption check (RTEC) confirms a patient’s exemption.

For EPS, the patient charge (or exemption) declaration is made via the electronic message, with the token used solely for checking the exemption.

As per the usual dispensing process, patients should continue to be asked to pay any relevant prescription fee, and evidence of their entitlement provisions apply in the usual way.

The director of operations and support at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Gordon Hockey, said: “PSNC has been actively seeking a temporary exemption from signing prescription forms since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic and welcomes the Government’s decision to waive this requirement for a second wave.

“For many months now pharmacy teams have understandably been concerned about infection control and this, coupled with massively increased workloads, has not been a conducive environment for collecting patient exemption declarations.”

“Until March 31 2021, NHSBSA will not switch any unsigned paper prescription forms between exempt and chargeable groups. It will therefore be very important during the end of moth submission process for contractors to check that the reverse of every paper FP10 prescription form is clearly marked as exempt or paid and sorted into their correct exempt or chargeable groups before the bundle is despatched to the relevant NHS Prescription Services division,” PSNC said.

The pharmacy negotiator will issue further guidance about how these changes may affect the end of month submission process in due course, which will first take affect for prescriptions submitted for payment for the dispensing month of November.

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