Over 60s at risk of missing out on free prescriptions for YEARS amid state pension changes

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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The Government is reportedly exploring the possibility of aligning the “freebie” NHS benefit with the state pension age. As it stands, those living in England are eligible for free prescriptions once they turn 60. Currently, those living in Scotland and Wales do not have to pay for prescription charges, no matter age they are.

If this change were to be implemented, English residents will have to wait until they are 66 to claim a benefit they were otherwise entitled to.

On its website, the Government outlined the various options it is considering when it comes to linking free prescription eligibility with the state pension age.

The first option is to just raise the qualifying age to the state pension age for everyone, while the alternative option being considered is to have a “period of reflection”.

This will allow people in their 60s to continue getting free prescriptions for a certain period of time.

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In its consultation, the Government stated: “Option B is to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to the SPA (currently 66) but with a period of protection, which would mean that people in the age range 60 to 65 would continue to receive free prescriptions.

“This would mean that anyone aged 60 and over when the changes to the charges regulations are implemented would continue to be exempt from prescription charges.

“Whereas those aged 59 and under when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the SPA (currently 66), unless they qualified for another exemption.

“The above options would have varying impacts for people who need NHS prescriptions, and could raise additional revenue for the NHS.”

For 2022, the Government announced that the cost of the average prescription charge would remain at £9.35 per item.

The decision comes in the wake of the cost of living crisis which has put great pressure on older households.

Reacting to the prescription freeze, Thorrun Govind, the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, emphasised why associating eligibility for free medication with the state pension would be detrimental to patients.

Ms Govind explained: “With continued pressures on teams, pharmacists should be allowed to focus on treating patients and prescriptions should not just be affordable, but they should be accessible to all”.

“It is extraordinary that the government is considering forcing the over 60s to start paying prescription charges, as all prescriptions are free for everybody in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“With the cost of living impacting all of Great Britain, the government should abolish prescription charges in England all together.”

With the cost of living crisis hitting those most vulnerable the most, particularly over 60s, the possibility of aligning free prescriptions with the state pension age has proven to be controversial.

On the Government’s consultation into hiking the eligibility age for free prescriptions, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 90 percent of community prescription items in England are free of charge.

“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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