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Signature suspension lifted as updated patient exemption checking guidance released for pharmacy teams

From 1 September 2021, any time a patient makes a declaration that they are entitled to free or reduced cost NHS prescriptions, the pharmacy must ask them to sign the prescription token or FP10 form and to produce evidence.   

In response to the pandemic, and to help limit the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care approved a temporary measure in England to suspend the need for patients to sign prescription forms. The suspension was initially for a period of five months and was later extended to 31 August 2021.  

The aim of the suspension was to protect primary care staff and patients, avoid cross-contamination and help minimise the handling of paperwork when collecting medicines or receiving dental and eye care.  

The temporary signature suspension has now been lifted.   

This means that, from 1 September 2021, any time a patient makes a declaration that they are exempt from paying for NHS prescriptions and treatment, pharmacy contractors and dispensing doctors must:   

  • ask to see evidence of their eligibility  
  • ask them to sign the declaration box on the paper FP10/Token   
  • specify the correct exemption category and indicate whether evidence was seen when submitting an EPS claim,    
  • note on their point of care system if the patient shows a valid exemption certificate, along with the expiry date of the certificate   

This is a legislative requirement under your terms of service.    

To coincide with the move, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has produced fresh guidance to help primary care contractors understand their legislative requirements, follow the correct procedure, and provide support to patients.  

The rules around entitlement to free prescriptions can be confusing for some patients. It’s important to remember that not all benefits entitle people to free prescriptions and help with their health costs. Patients can find out if they’re entitled to help with NHS costs using the online eligibility checker: 

Guidance for pharmacy contractors also includes making sure the patient has ticked the correct exemption box on the reverse of the FP10 or token, submitting the FP10 token in a timely manner, and information about Real Time Exemption Checking (RTEC) - an NHS electronic system which allows pharmacies to immediately check if a patient is eligible for free prescriptions. 

Full guidance and information for pharmacy contractors and dispensing doctors is available on the NHSBSA website: 

For information about help with health costs, visit:  


Contact Information

Samantha Murphy

Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority