The Government is considering increasing the age of exemption for NHS prescription charges to state pension age in what has been described as a “kick in the teeth for over 60s”. Age UK, which has launched a new “Save Free Prescriptions” campaign in response to the proposal, says 2.4 million people aged 60-65 could have to start paying for their prescriptions.
Currently, people qualify for free prescriptions – which cost £9.35 per medicine – at 60.
However, last month the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation on raising the qualifying age to 66 to mirror the state pension age.
This move is an attempt at collecting extra funds for much-needed reforms to the UK’s health care system, and it is estimated the charge could bring in an extra £300million for the NHS by 2026/27.
But Age UK has said the “short-shifted policy” is likely to exacerbate England’s health inequalities and pile extra pressure on the NHS.
This is due to concerns that older people will stop taking their medication because of the cost and as a result become sicker.
A health department spokesman defended the plan by reminding Britons that the age requirement for free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men.
He added: “We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and on certain benefits.”
Currently, people can buy a prescriptions certificate to cut their costs, at £108.10 a year.
However, this Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC) requires either up-front payment or setting up a direct debit, something which many older people may not be able to facilitate.
Age UK said: “It is extremely disappointing that a policy that could have such a significant impact on millions of older people is being consulted on over August and that it was published without much fanfare.”
“The consultation puts forward proposals to increase the qualifying age for free prescriptions from 60 to the state pension age, which is currently 66 for both men and women but is on track to rise further…
“People will be particularly affected if their income is modest but takes them just above the benefit line.”
The charity added that such a policy would “penalises people in poor health” who often need multiple prescriptions, due to having several serious long terms health conditions.
It also argued that those from ethnic minority groups will be disproportionately impacted by the new rules because conditions such as heart disease are more prevalent among ethnic minority groups.
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Published at Tue, 17 Aug 2021 12:19:55 +0000