An NHS electronic system which enables pharmacies to immediately check if a patient is eligible for free prescriptions is being rolled out nationally.
The Real Time Exemption Checking (RTEC) service lets the pharmacy team see if a patient needs to pay for their prescription when it is dispensed, saving time and helping patients claim free prescriptions correctly. Currently, checks on exemptions are carried out by the pharmacist manually during dispensing.
RTEC, which has been developed by NHS Digital and the NHS Business Services Authority, has been integrated and piloted in 40 pharmacies using a dispensing system supplied by Positive Solutions. It is now being expanded to other pharmacies in England that use this system, and other dispensing system providers are working towards using the RTEC service.
The introduction of RTEC will mean that patients can:
- Be sure they’re definitely exempt from paying for their prescription
- Save money if they didn’t know they were entitled to free prescriptions
- Spend less time at the counter checking whether they’re exempt from paying
RTEC is helping the NHS become more efficient by making sure free prescriptions can be validated easily in the pharmacy. 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.
The service applies to prescriptions sent by the Electronic Prescription Service. Currently, RTEC covers medical, maternity, Low Income Scheme and tax credit exemptions, as well as prescription prepayment certificates. A pilot involving DWP benefit exemption checking is also underway.
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.”
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.”
The service is now being rolled out to more pharmacies, and other dispensing system suppliers are expected to develop their RTEC systems throughout the year.