Requirement to sign prescriptions suspended from November 2020

Requirement to sign prescriptions suspended from November 2020

October 30, 2020

Update – 29 March 2021

Following representations made by PSNC to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Ministers in England have agreed to extend the temporary suspension of the requirement for patients (or their representatives) to sign the back of NHS prescription forms and/or EPS tokens until 30 June 2021.

Whilst the suspension of signature requirements remains in place, contractors are not required to submit EPS tokens (other than those used for SSP claims) to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). PSNC has published updated guidance on the changes to the dispensing and end of month submission processes along with a ‘Top Tips‘ chart for pharmacy staff showing how to complete the exempt or paid declarations on paper FP10 prescription forms.


The Government has temporarily suspended the requirement for patients (or their representatives) to sign the back of NHS prescription forms or EPS tokens. This change comes into effect from 1st November 2020 and will last initially until 31st March 2021.

As part of the social distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and to assist in the management of the serious risk or potentially serious risk to human health in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Ministers in England have agreed to temporarily suspend the need for patient signatures on prescription forms.

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 changes are outlined in Part XVI of the November 2020 Drug Tariff, as highlighted on the NHSBSA website.

Implementing these changes to the dispensing process

Whilst the suspension is active, pharmacy teams must:

  • Mark the relevant exempt or paid category on the FP10 form or EPS token on behalf of the patient; and,

This 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.

Implementing these changes to the submission process

During this period, 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 will issue further guidance about how these changes may affect the end of month submission process in due course (update: see PSNC Briefing 040/20), which will first take affect for prescriptions submitted for payment for the dispensing month of November 2020 (to be despatched by the 5th December).

PSNC Director of Operations and Support, 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.”

Additional information

New: PSNC Briefing 040/20: Requirement to sign prescriptions suspended: dispensing and submission guidance

How to prepare your prescription bundle for end of month submission

Prescription switching

Real Time Exemption Checking (RTEC)



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