Prescription charges set to rise to £13 by 2035 – who can get free medication?

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Research from Chemist4U has revealed that prescriptions have seen an average price increase of 2.35 percent year-on-year. Overall, in the past 10 years, Britons have seen their NHS prescription charges go up by 26.35 percent, with this trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Over the counter medications are expected to cross the £10 mark by 2024, hitting £11 by 2028. Prescriptions are likely to cost £13 by 2035 if this continues, research suggests.

The Government is set to align access to free prescriptions in England with the state pension age – currently 66 – meaning many people will have to wait longer for their “free” medication benefit.

Many consider this move to be a bad one and will further roll back peoples’ rights to free prescriptions in the UK.

To get free medication through the NHS, claimants must have a continuing physical disability that prevents them from going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx).

Free prescriptions are also available for those under the age of 16, or anyone between 16 to 18 years old who is in full-time education.

James O’Loan, a pharmacist and CEO of Chemist4U, outlined what his company’s research reveals about the UK’s relationship with increasingly expensive prescription charges.

Mr O’Loan explained: “Prescription medications are a brilliant way of treating many medical conditions, and make a real difference in keeping us a fit and healthy population.

“However, in many cases, we may now be used to expecting a prescription as soon as we see a doctor or prescribing professional, when it may not always be necessary.

“This is further proved by our data showing that the number of prescriptions dispensed has increased over the years, suggesting that either medical conditions have increased, or we’re not being as careful as possible when it comes to prescribing a drug.

“Alongside the cost of prescriptions and medicines as a whole, this is definitely a cause for concern.”

In response to the rising cost in prescription charges, a coalition of charities and health organisations have come together to call for the Government to keep free NHS prescriptions for over 60s.

The Government is set to align access to free prescriptions in England with the state pension age of 66, meaning many people will have to wait longer for their “free” medication benefit.

Experts believe this will discriminate against some of the most vulnerable groups in society, notably elderly people and unpaid carers.

Currently, those living in Scotland and Wales receive free prescriptions from the NHS no matter their age.

Professor Martin Marshall, the Chair of Council of Royal College of General Practitioners, is one of the signatories of an open letter to the Government, pushing them to rethink their decision on this issue.

Professor Martin said: “We have always been supportive of any safe and sensible measures to reduce medication costs for patients and ensure equitable access to necessary medication for all patients.

“Introducing an additional cost for over 60s managing long term health conditions will, albeit unintentionally, disproportionately affect a large group of patients who are on low incomes but just above the threshold for financial help with the costs of their medication.

“Many patients are already waiting longer for treatment or will have seen their health deteriorate as a result of the challenges of the last 18 months.

“This change will discourage patients who are financially less well-off from managing their health proactively, and could mean that they present to general practice when their problems are far worse and at a time when general practice is already at breaking point.

“We urge the Government to reconsider these proposals.”

In England, the NHS prescription charge rose to £9.35 per prescription item as of April 1, 2021.

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