You can challenge a Penalty Charge Notice if:
Challenge reasons we won't usually accept
We won't usually accept the following reasons:
- your exemption certificate had expired
- you feel that you were misadvised by your GP or by pharmacy or dental practice staff
- you thought that your contributions-based benefit entitled you to claim
- you thought your prescription prepayment certificate would automatically renew
How to make a challenge
To challenge your Penalty Charge Notice you must contact us and explain your reason for the challenge. You will need to include your full name, postcode and your reference number (this can be found on your Penalty Charge Notice letter).
How to contact us:
Our online contact form is the easiest way to contact us.
On the online form, in the drop-down box underneath 'Subject', select either ‘Prescription penalty charge’ or 'Dental penalty charge'. This depends on which type of Penalty Charge Notice you've received.
Please include your full name, postcode and your reference number in your message. Your reference number can be found in the top left hand of your Penalty Charge Notice letter.
We will contact you within 2 working days.
Email us at:
Please include your full name, postcode and your reference number in your email. Your reference number can be found in the top left hand of your Penalty Charge Notice letter.
We will contact you within 2 working days.
Call us on:
- 0300 330 9291 (prescriptions)
- 0300 330 1293 (dental treatment)
If your reference number starts with 'BECS/DR' call 0300 330 1368.
Lines are available Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, and Saturday from 9am-3pm.
If you're deaf or hard of hearing and you have a textphone (sometimes called a minicom), you can contact us using the Text Relay Service. Dial 18001 followed by one of the numbers above (either for prescriptions or dental treatment).
For advice in other languages we also offer an interpreter service. Call either the prescriptions or dental phone number above (depending on which one you need), when the call is answered say which language you need.
Write to either the 'Prescriptions Penalty Charges Team' or the 'Dental Penalty Charges Team' at the following address:
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Please include your full name, postcode and your reference number in your letter. Your reference number can be found in the top left hand of your Penalty Charge Notice letter.
Once we receive your letter, we will contact you within 5 working days.
What happens next
If you contact us by online form or email, we will contact you within 2 working days. If you post your challenge to us, we will contact you within 5 working days.
We may ask you to provide some proof. We'll let you know what type of proof we need: it might be a reference number (for example a medical exemption certificate number), or a copy of a document (such as a benefit award letter). We may ask for more information about your exceptional reason and any supporting evidence.
If your challenge is successful
There are 2 types of successful outcome:
- If we agree that you have an exceptional reason not to pay, the penalty charge will be reduced or removed, but you will still need to pay the original prescription charge or dental treatment charge. This is in accordance with the NHS (Penalty Charge) Regulations 1999.
- If you can show us that there's been a mistake (you were entitled to claim free NHS prescriptions or free/reduced cost NHS dental treatment, or you had a valid prescription prepayment certificate), your Penalty Charge Notice will be cancelled and you will not have to pay any charges.
If your challenge is unsuccessful
If you're told that you're not entitled to challenge, you must pay the total amount on your Penalty Charge Notice.
It is important to pay as soon as possible. If you don't pay by the deadline on your Penalty Charge Notice letter, you may have to pay a surcharge of up to £50.
Help with future NHS health costs
The NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for a range of NHS health costs, including NHS prescription charges and NHS dental treatment.
Anyone with a low income can apply (this includes pensioners and students). The amount of help you get will depend on your household income and outgoings.
Find out more about the NHS Low Income Scheme and how to apply.