‘They can take me to court’, says villager

Ian Gilbertson, outside Pocklington Group Practice.
Ian Gilbertson, outside Pocklington Group Practice.

A villager with diabetes has been fined by the NHS for claiming free prescriptions because he did not have the right paperwork, but says he refuses to pay the fee and is prepared to go to court if necessary.

Ian Gilbertson, of Wilberfoss, received a penalty charge notice of £124.15 last month from the NHS Business Services Authority for obtaining prescriptions costing £24.15, which he claimed for free in November last year without a valid medical exemption certificate. The 55-year-old claims nobody has ever told him he needed a certificate.

All people in England aged between 18-60 who use insulin or medicine to manage their diabetes are entitled to claim free prescriptions. But, according to the charity Diabetes UK, many people with the condition are not aware that you must have a valid medical exemption to make a claim.

Mr Gilbertson said: “I have suffered from type one diabetes for nearly 12 years and never been informed by my GP or local hospital that I need a exemption certificate in order to obtain free prescriptions. Over 12 years of collecting my medication from my local Pocklington surgery I have never been asked if I had a exemption certificate. I have spoken to the NHS Business Services Authority and my doctors but nobody seems interested. I am adamant I have not claimed for anything I am not entitled to and will not be paying, they can take me to court!”

After contacting the NHS Business Services Authority, he was told if he paid £24.15 for the prescriptions, the fine of £100 would be cancelled, but he still refused to pay on principle.

He says he has been told by the authority that his doctor, pharmacy or Pocklington Group Practice, where he is registered as a patient and collects his medication from, should have made him aware of the need for a medical exemption certificate.

The practice has told him they will not pay the £24.15 for his prescriptions last November, therefore his full penalty of £124.15 is still outstanding.

Mr Gilbertson has contacted East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight about the situation.

He said: “I am worried other people with diabetes are going to get these fines through the door and pay them. According to Diabetes UK, other people are being fined.”

Since receiving the fine, Mr Gilbertson has obtained a free certificate to claim his prescriptions.

A spokesperson for NHS Business Services Authority said: “While GP practice and pharmacy staff are encouraged to support their patients in this regard, it is the patient’s responsibility to check their eligibility for free prescriptions before they (or their representative) sign the declaration on the back of the prescription form. The declaration reads: ‘The patient doesn’t have to pay because he/she has a valid medical exemption certificate’ and it is written in regulation that it is the exemption certificate that entitles a patient to free prescriptions, not the medical condition alone.”

A Pocklington Group Practice spokesperson added: “We are unable to comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality however, where a patient has a condition which qualifies for free prescriptions they need to complete a form to apply for an exemption certificate. We supply the forms and send them off to the NHS Business Services Authority.

“We regret we were unable to give our patients prior warning of the need to ensure their certificates were up to date, however we were not aware that the NHS was changing its system.”