Britons may have to wait longer for free bus pass & free prescriptions – impacts explored

Sadiq Khan quizzed by pensioner on future of free bus passes

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

State Pension age has historically stood at 60 for women and 65 for men, but after changes, by November 2018, age parity was reached. This was not the end of alterations, however, and since, the state pension age has risen to 66. The state pension age is gradually increasing for men and women and is planned to increase in future years to 68. This is due to the fact life expectancy in the UK is rising, with Britons expected to spend more of their adult lives in retirement than ever before. The rising state pension age, however, is likely to have an impact on two key entitlements older people expect, and therefore individuals are encouraged to pay attention to the changes to ensure they are not left disappointed or out of the loop about the matter.

Firstly, is the idea of the free bus pass. This is an important entitlement for Britons as it eases travel, allowing people to get out and about for free. Whether it is attending doctor’s appointments or visiting family and friends, a free bus pass is valued highly by many individuals.

However, there are rules surrounding when a person can get this pass which are important to note. They differ in the four nations of the UK due to devolved governments having varying rules when it comes to travel.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, people will usually be able to get their free bus pass at 60. But in England, it is stipulated free bus passes can only be obtained once a person reaches state pension age. This means these individuals will have to wait until 66 to get theirs.

With state pension age rising, however, it may be the case some individuals will have to wait until after 66, if their state pension age is higher. To check, people can procure a state pension forecast from the Government’s official website, which can tell them when their age is, and how much they can expect to receive from their state pension.

However, there may be another change people, namely those resident in England, will have to contend with. This relates to the ability to acquire free NHS prescriptions, which proposals have suggested could undergo a change. 

NHS prescription charges could be on the horizon as the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is currently consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for prescription charges with the state pension age. This would mean many more people between the ages of 60 and 65 would be required to meet prescription charges. 

Historically, the initial exemption age for prescriptions was for people aged 65 and over. This was then extended to women aged 60 and over in 1974. In 1995, it was further extended to men aged 60 and over. This was based on the state pension age for women. 

Most adults in England are required to pay for prescription charges. The NHS states some items are always free, including medicines which are prescribed for hospital inpatients and contraceptives. 

DON’T MISS
TSB offers ‘great’ one percent interest rate to savers [INSIGHT]
Self-employed hit back as impact of National Insurance made clear [UPDATE]
Warning as pensioner, 86, caught up in £4,000 scam [WARNING]

The current prescription charge is £9.35 per item, but a prescription prepayment certificate could save people money, and the NHS encourages people to look into the matter.

However, some health charities have expressed concern about the potential for an increase. They have written to the Government urging a rethink on the matter.

The letter highlighted a “deep concern” that scrapping free prescriptions for 60 to 65 year olds could have a “devastating impact” on the health of older people. Particularly concerning, the letter added, are those 52 percent of 60 to 64 year olds who are living with one or more long term health conditions. 

Thorrun Govind, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board Chair, also said: “The proposal to raise the age at which people can access free prescriptions from 60 to 66 means that many more people will be affected by this tax on the sick at exactly the time at which they may be needing more medicines.

“It is unacceptable to raise the cost of prescriptions in the current economic situation when many have been disadvantaged by the pandemic. Such proposals will only further drive the health inequalities that have been highlighted by COVID-19.”

Ms Govind highlighted that in Scotland and Wales at present, there are no prescription charges residents will need to pay. This is as a result of devolved governments having control over health services and the way they are administered.

Those living in England, then, may have to prepare to wait longer for their free prescriptions, if the proposals were to go ahead and be made into law. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “The age people get free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men so we are consulting on aligning the upper age exemption from prescription charges with the state pension age.

What is happening where you live? Find out by adding your postcode or visit InYourArea

“We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.  

“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.” 

The consultation does not propose any other changes to existing exemptions from charges, which remain in place for a range of ages and vulnerable groups or those on low incomes.

People on a low income who do not qualify for an exemption from prescription charges are urged to seek help with their prescription charges and other health costs under the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). This scheme provides help with health costs on an income-related basis. 

Source: Read Full Article