Free NHS prescriptions to end from April? What you need to know
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Specifically, the proposal to hike the eligibility age for free NHS medication to the state pension age has been met with criticism due to the impact it will have on people with conditions such as Parkinson’s and asthma. The Prescriptions Coalition is a group of 50 health organisations which is calling on the UK Government to scrap prescription charges in England, similar to what other devolved Governments have done. In light of the current cost of living crisis, the group are concerned that the most vulnerable people in society will be further disenfranchised if the state pension proposal is to take place.
As it stands, residents in England do not need to pay prescription charges once they reach 60 years of age.
Once the state pension rule change takes place, they will have to wait until they are 66 to access vital medications for free on the NHS.
Currently, the average prescription costs £9.35 per item but some groups of people are eligible for free medication if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
Furthermore, residents in England can reduce their costs by purchasing a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) which costs £30.25 for 3 months or £108.10 for 12 months.
The prescription cost to a person with Parkinson’s over a six year period could be around £6,000 if the Government’s proposal were to take place, according to the Prescriptions Coalition.
This figure is based on a patient needing an average of nine prescriptions a month to take care of their condition.
The group believes the UK Government has not taken into account how over 60s with degenerative health conditions will be affected by the state pension rule change.
Research by Asthma UK found that different parts of the country are affected worse by prescription poverty with 81 percent of people reporting that they were struggling to afford their asthma medication, compared with 70 percent of people in London.
Laura Cockram, the chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and head of policy and campaigns at Parkinson’s UK, outlined what is at stake for households which are reliant on vital prescriptions from the NHS.
Ms Cockram said: “The pandemic has hit people hard and households are already worrying about how they are going to be able to afford rising bills and national insurance contributions.
“To hit people approaching 60 with six more years of spiralling prescription charges for long term health conditions that are outside of their control is cruel.
“The Government’s decision to put a heftier price on the medications that change people’s lives will place more pressure on stretched NHS services and could even be fatal.
“Both those with long term health conditions, and pharmacists alike, are sharing experiences where people are having to ration their medication to make it last longer.
“Others simply choose to go without some or all their medications, just so they can pay for their heating, or petrol to get to work.
“This is not a decision that people take lightly, nor is it one that the Government should be forcing them into.”
The prescriptions expert added: “We are urging people to reach out to their local MP and oppose the increase.
“At a bare minimum, we want the Government to review the widely outdated prescription exemption list, which hasn’t been looked at in over 50 years.”
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 years old, 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 with the state pension age.
“We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”
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