An NHS service that enables pharmacies to immediately check if a patient is eligible for free prescriptions is being launched across England. 

The real time exemption checking service (RTEC), which plans to make the NHS more ‘efficient’ and save pharmacists time, is being introduced nationally after a successful pilot scheme. 

The service works by allowing pharmacy teams to see if a patient needs to pay for their prescription when the prescription is being dispensed.

RTEC was developed by NHS Digital and the NHS Business Services Authority and has already been successfully piloted in 40 pharmacies in England using a dispensing system supplied by Positive Solution. 

The pilot showed that the service saves two minutes per request, meaning the service has successfully saved over 4,500 hours of pharmacy staff time. 

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.’