NHS sent my wife a penalty notice for getting a prescription

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My wife has a direct debit for an NHS prescription prepay certificate, which auto-renews every year. Recently, she received a penalty charge notice (PCN) for a prescription she collected three months ago. It appears that last year her new certificate was returned as undelivered to the issuer, NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), because of an “incorrect address”, even though we haven’t moved. NHSBSA therefore cancelled the direct debit and the auto-renewal. We were unaware of this, and my wife continued to tick the prepaid box when she collected her prescriptions. NHSBSA claims it did not notify us because it assumed we’d moved. It has since issued the certificate, but says it can’t backdate it and insists my wife pay the PCN. We’re happy to make up the payments missed after the direct debit was cancelled, but I am concerned it may issue a PCN for all of the prescriptions she received during that period. She is on weekly prescriptions for eight medications.
EA, Hastings

NHSBSA tells me it was unable to comment on your wife’s case due to confidentiality, but says that if a pre-payment certificate is returned as undeliverable, it cancels payments so patients are not left out of pocket for a service they can’t use. It confirmed that patients are alerted if they have provided an alternative contact. You say your wife was called soon after I intervened and told that, since a phone number was included in her records, she should have been informed as soon as the certificate was returned.

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The PCNs – another arrived after you wrote – have been waived and, since they can only apparently be cancelled after they’ve been sent, future fines will also be dropped. You’ve been given a team member’s email to forward them to, and told that you do not need to make up for the cancelled payments. The wider lesson is to keep an eye on bank statements and check direct debits are being paid and, if you rely on a prepayment certificate, make sure it’s in date.

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