‘Money is tight!’ State pension changes to free NHS prescriptions to hit unpaid carers

‘Money is tight!’ State pension changes to free NHS prescriptions to hit unpaid carers

A recent Government proposal has put forward the idea to align access to free NHS medication with the state pension age, which is 66 years old. Currently, residents in England receive free prescriptions once they turn 60. In comparison, those who live in England and Wales receive free medication no matter what age they are. If this proposal were to go ahead, millions of older Britons would have to pay for their medication despite having expected not to do so.

However, various organisations are sounding the alarm that unpaid carers are likely to be hit the most financially by this policy shift.

Research from Age UK found that nearly one in four people between the ages of 60 to 65 are unpaid carers. This is around 860,000 people.

On top of this, of this amount of unpaid carers, less than one in 10 of whom receive any financial help at all through the Carer’s Allowance.

According to Age UK, the majority of unpaid carers in this age demographic would have given up their career or work to look after someone which means their income will be likely low.

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In response to this proposal, campaigners are lobbying the Government to scrap this change and make free prescriptions available to everyone in England, similar to how they are in Scotland and Wales.

As of today, the average prescription costs £9.35 per item and his charge is expected to rise within the next year.

Due to older people often needing multiple medications, Age UK believes the proposal will disproportionately affect those between the ages of 60 to 65 and those who are unpaid carers.

Thousands of older Britons have reached out for help from the charity in recent years to address this issue.


One woman who reached out to Age UK for assistance said: “As an unpaid carer whose only source of income is Carer’s Allowance, I need free prescriptions.

“I won’t be able to afford my prescriptions if I have to pay for them, meaning my own health will deteriorate and I won’t be able to continue with my caring role.”

Another woman told the Charity: “I had to give up work at 58 to care for my husband who has severe Alzheimer’s. I don’t yet qualify for my state pension and only get Carer’s Allowance, so money is always tight.

“We already spend a small fortune on care costs, costs associated with incontinence, extra on heating, water for washing etc. Paying for prescriptions would cause issues.”

Ms Abrahams said: “There is ample evidence showing that older carers often struggle with their own health problems, so making them start paying for their medication simply risks them becoming even less fit and well.

“When a carer’s health breaks down and they are unable to continue to care then this is not only bad news for them and their loved one, it piles extra pressure on our beleaguered health and care system too.

“So why is the Department of Health and Social Care considering adopting a policy that makes carer breakdown more likely, and at a time when we are not yet out of the woods of the pandemic?”

“The adverse impact on older carers of this policy proposal adds to our sense that it has not been properly thought through. One senior doctor told me it was a ‘ridiculous idea’, because it is so likely to be self-defeating.

“The money the NHS saves from making more people buy their medication is almost certain to be outweighed by the costs of treating health conditions that worsen because some 60 to 65-year-olds adhere less rigorously to their prescribed treatment regimes.

“Fortunately it’s not too late for the Government to change its mind. We are urging the Secretary of State to drop a bad idea which flies in the face of other Government priorities, one which was developed before he joined the Department.”

Speaking earlier to Express.co.uk, a Department for 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 Sat, 29 Jan 2022 08:47:00 +0000