‘Illogical and unfair!’ Over 60s may lose free prescriptions after state pension changes

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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In England, residents become eligible for this “freebie” benefit once they turn 60 years of age. However, the Government has put forward a proposal to hike the eligibility threshold to the state pension age. This means that individuals who would otherwise have been entitled to free prescriptions will need to wait until they are 66 to claim the support.

While some people in their 60s may be able to claim a medical exemption, most will have to pay £9.35 per item while visiting a pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions.

Concerns have been raised that those with multiple ailments and health conditions will have to pay multiple prescription charges which could end up being costly.

Furthermore, organisations such as Age UK are sounding the alarm that older people will opt out of claiming vital prescriptions in order to save money.

One individual named Barry got in touch with Age UK to voice his concerns about the proposals.

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Barry said: “Having been forced into retirement seven years ago due to a stroke, my income dried up and my savings have long-since gone, without free prescriptions I would almost certainly opt to miss some medicines thereby possibly making myself ill.”

Recently, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) came out against prescription charges in England, citing the additional “workload” for pharmacists when processing them.

In a statement, the group stated: “The current system of prescription charges in England affects the most vulnerable people in society and makes the health inequality in this country worse.

“At the NPA, it’s been our longstanding position that people should not be denied access to prescription medicines on the basis of their ability to pay.

“As pharmacists, we understand the healing power of medicines. We also know from first-hand experience that people on low fixed incomes who do not qualify for exemption suffer greatly from the current system.

“From a pharmacist’s point of view, processing prescription levies is a task which adds workload but has no patient benefit. We are healthcare professionals and have no interest in being tax collectors.”

Furthermore, the NPA criticised the Government’s proposal to hike the eligibility threshold to the state pension age and called for prescription charges to be scrapped entirely, similar to other parts of the UK.

Residents in Scotland and Wales do not need to pay prescription charges no matter what age they are.

The organisation added: “We also believe there would be little return on investment to the NHS from proposals to aligning the upper age for NHS prescription charges at 65 years old, due to the various operational costs.

“It could also lead to indirect cost to the NHS as people’s health suffers from making a reluctant choice not to take their medicines as prescribed.

“All prescriptions should be exempt from charges regardless of age or medical condition, as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Far more value for money can be achieved in the drugs budget by reducing waste and improving medicines use, for example through the NHS New Medicines Service, which has recently been expanded to include Parkinson’s, heart failure and stroke.

“Pharmacists, like other health care professionals, experience great pressures on their time and they want to spend it with patients, not with paperwork associated with prescription charges.

“​The National Pharmacy Association is glad to be part of the prescription charges coalition, seeking reform of this outdated, illogical and unfair system.”

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