Free prescription age may rise to 66 but system could change further – ‘Unnecessary!’

Free prescription age may rise to 66 but system could change further – ‘Unnecessary!’

State Pension age recently rose to 66, but traditionally the age at which a person can get a free prescription in England is set at 60. However, a Government consultation is looking at whether the free prescription age could be aligned with the state pension age, meaning those over 60 may have to meet a cost before they hit the new age of eligibility. Although this is a potential change which has sparked much debate, there is also another matter which has to be reckoned with – the idea of overprescription of medicine. 

New estimates from a Government-commissioned review have suggested there could be millions of prescriptions which may actually be handed out unnecessarily. 

The research showed approximately 110 million prescriptions “need not have been issued” every year.

The review looked into the idea of the overprescription of medicines, the notion that some individuals are given medicines which they do not need or want, and in some cases, items which could do them harm.

It was led by Dr Keith Ridge, who is the chief pharmaceutical officer for England, and estimates 10 percent of the total number of prescription items issue by GP surgeries may, in fact, be unnecessary.

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It added: “This would be equivalent to a reduction of around 110 million items a year.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, also commented on the matter, saying: “This is an incredibly important review which will have a lasting impact on people’s lives and improve the way medicines are prescribed.

“With 15 percent of people taking five or more medicines a day, in some cases to deal with the side effects of another medicine, more needs to be done to listen to patients and help clinical teams tackle overprescribing.”

Of particular note to those who are worried about the free prescription age rising are findings about older age groups.

The consultation on the free prescription age will last for an eight week period, and will examine the options which could potentially be implemented. 

Option A is to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to the state pension age. Option B is to raise it to state pension age, but with a period of protection, which would mean people in the age range of 60 to 65 would continue to receive free prescriptions.

The consultation document adds: “[Option B] would mean that anyone aged 60 and over when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would continue to be exempt from prescription charges, whereas those aged 59 and under when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the SPA (currently 66), unless they qualified for another exemption.”

It is thought raising the free prescription age could raise additional revenue for the NHS, with a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson previously telling “We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.  

“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.” 

Published at Fri, 24 Sep 2021 08:07:00 +0000