Free NHS prescription age proposal could see over 60s lose freebie

Jeremy Vine: Caller slams calls to scrap free over 60s prescriptions

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One proposed change from the Government was to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to 66 years to align with the state pension. If the proposal were to come into effect, millions of older Britons could lose their entitlement to free NHS prescriptions. The Government stated in its proposal that the change would happen “immediately” if it goes ahead. 

The proposal came from a Government consultation last year which outlined different rollout plans for the state pension rule change.

An alternative option which was being considered was to have a “period of reflection” to allow people in their 60s to continue getting free prescriptions and only introduce the rule for new over-60s.

In the consultation, the Government highlighted that the first option could lead to “mass confusion” among those who could be hit with unfair penalty notices.

While the second option may allow the public to familiarise themselves with the change.

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There has been strong opposition on social media with users calling the move “ridiculous” and that older Britons were being “cheated” of what they deserved. 

Twitter user @p0634mark_wilco said: “Typical. Pensioners have paid NI contributions into the health service including paying prescriptions for over 50yrs in their lives.

“It’s bad enough you don’t get your pension till 67yrs having to work longer than ever, now when you get it you are robbed of the benefits paid for.”

Another user @mccartaigh1953 commented: “The elderly have paid in longer, are most likely to need multiple prescriptions, and are more likely to be on the lowest incomes, so do you think they might decide to not go to the doctor’s if they fear paying for all their drugs?

“If they don’t take regular care they’ll present for care at a more critical point in their ill-health, need more intensive care, and cost the No Hope Service far more in the long-run.”

Another issue that was highlighted was that the state pension age is set to rise to 67 by 2028 which means over 60s will have an even longer wait for a benefit they were otherwise entitled to.

Since February this year, several public petitions have been launched with the aim of protecting free NHS prescriptions for those over 60.

These have been launched across platforms which include, 38 Degrees, Sum Of Us, and UK Government and Parliament Petitions. 

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The petitions received 622,000 signatures across them all, correct at the time of writing.

Health experts and campaigners have heavily criticised the Government’s decision to even consider these options as the move could detrimentally affect the health of older Britons. 

Dr Jennifer Burns, who is the president of the British Geriatrics Society stated that it “was essential” that older people with multiple long-term conditions are able to access the medications they need to “effectively manage their health”. 

Dr Burns stated the Government needed to “definitely think again” on the decision.

Commenting on the proposals earlier this year, Caroline Abrahams, director, at Age UK said: “This policy proposal seems all the more unfair because prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland and Wales.

“There’s a strong public health case for heading in that direction here in England too. 

“Instead, our government wants to do the opposite: make many more people pay for their medicines, and at an age when it’s all the more important they take them, to control conditions that left untreated can lead to really serious medical problems, piling more pressure onto the NHS. 

“If ever there was a self-defeating policy, this is it, and we know that many medical experts agree with us.” has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

Earlier this year, 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. No decision has yet been made – we are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”

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