PATIENTS trying to con the NHS have been warned it could end up costing them dear.

The warning comes after it emerged that 836 patients in Somerset were given penalty notices after falsely claiming they were exempt from prescription charges.

The NHS Counter Fraud Service in the county recovered more than £14,000 in fines last year from people trying to skip the £8.05 charge for medicines when they should have paid.

The service’s Andy Knight said anyone avoiding paying could end up having to fork out £98.30 instead of £8.05.

As well as paying back the charge, they could be hit with a fine of five times the original fee up to a maximum of £100 and a further £50 if they don’t cough up within 28 days.

Mr Knight said 14% of claims checked last year were not eligible for exemption, down from 22% the previous year.

He added: “We recognise that patients can and do make genuine mistakes when it comes to declaring whether they are or are not exempt from prescription charges.

“The work carried out by our team shows a reduction in the overall levels of patient charge evasion during 2013/14, but there still remains a significant level of patient charge evasion to be addressed.”