An NHS service that enables pharmacies to immediately check if a patient has an exemption for paying for prescriptions has been rolled out to over 80% of pharmacies.

The real time exemption checking service (RTEC) allows pharmacy teams to digitally check if a patient can get a prescription for free as it is being dispensed.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has confirmed that over 80% of pharmacy organisations have now received the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) functionality for RTEC.

The rollout means patients found to be exempt via RTEC no longer need to complete an exemption declaration on an EPS token, which is a paper copy of an electronic prescription.

The service started being rolled out across pharmacies in 2020.

David Broome, a community pharmacy contractor in Leeds and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) regional representative, said: ‘The rollout of the DWP for our pharmacy team has been a positive development, helping reduce the amount of paperwork that my team and patients have to deal with and in turn the environmental impact of our operations.’

The requirement for patients in England to sign paper NHS prescription forms or EPS tokens was temporarily removed in 2020 due to concerns over the spread of Covid-19.


Before RTEC can be activated for an individual pharmacy, the pharmacy contractor must confirm that they agree to the terms of the RTEC user agreement. The NHSBSA has published a registration guide explaining how contractors can log in and confirm acceptance of the RTEC user agreement.

Contractors already using RTEC also need to confirm that they accept the user agreement if they have not already done so. Multiples can submit a bulk declaration for more than one pharmacy.

The NHSBSA and PSNC have recommended that contractors register to avoid a delay to their PMR system supplier activating RTEC as a part of the rollout programme.