Free NHS prescription changes set to come into force – pensioners fear ‘devastating’ move

Free NHS prescription changes set to come into force – pensioners fear ‘devastating’ move

Current proposals suggest that access to free prescriptions is set to be made to align with the state pension of 66. This is a drastic change from what is current policy which allows those between the ages of 60 to 65 to receive free medication through the NHS.

Unlike England, residents of Scotland and Wales are eligible for free prescriptions no matter their age as their NHS are devolved to their separate Governments.

In response to the Government’s proposal, Age UK has launched a campaign to save free NHS prescriptions for those in their early to mid 60s.

Alongside leading health organisations, such as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the charity wrote an open letter to the Government calling on them to change their decision.

Age UK emphasised that the policy change would have an adverse impact on over half of people in the age bracket, who are more likely to have one or more long-term illnesses which require medication.

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Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director said: “The money the Government raises if it goes ahead with this proposal will be easily outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS if, as is predictable, some people fail to take their medication and become sicker, more quickly.

“Tens of thousands may require hospital treatment due to rationing of what they take, so this really is a bad idea that will hit people who are poor and on modest incomes hardest of all.

“Once we reach our early to mid 60s, many of us are advised by our doctors to take medicines that are proven to keep potentially serious health conditions safely under control.

“If the Government goes ahead with its proposal, it is clear that some people will be reluctant to act on symptoms or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long-term, symptom-relieving or even in some cases life-saving medication. The Government should definitely think again.”

Thorrun Govind, the RPS’ English Pharmacy Board Chair, also slammed the Government’s decision and called for the scrapping of prescription charges altogether.

Mr Govind said: “The proposal to raise the age at which people can access free prescriptions from 60 to 66 means that many more people will be affected by this tax on the sick at exactly the time at which they may be needing more medicines.

“It is unacceptable to raise the cost of prescriptions in the current economic situation when many have been disadvantaged by the pandemic. Such proposals will only further drive the health inequalities that have been highlighted by Covid-19.

“RPS would like to see the complete abolishment of prescription charges in England, whatever the age group, as is the case in Scotland and Wales.”

Experts such as James O’Loan, the CEO of Chemist4U, have highlighted the inadvertent consequences this policy change would have on the livelihoods of unpaid carers.

Mr O’Loan explained: “Unpaid carers have played a fundamental role in keeping their loved ones safe for years, especially during the pandemic.

“To remove free NHS prescriptions away for an estimated 2.4 million people aged between 60-65 including pensioners and unpaid carers is taking away a very necessary lifeline away from those who need it the most.

“The impact could be devastating. We may see carers and pensioners giving up vital medication because they can’t afford these proposed costs.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 90 percent of community prescription items in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions.

“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age. We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”

Published at Wed, 29 Dec 2021 04:00:00 +0000