‘I cannot afford the price!’ Over 60s vent fury at proposal to scrap free prescriptions

Free NHS prescriptions to end from April? What you need to know

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Last year, a Government consultation was launched into raising the qualifying age for free prescriptions on the NHS to the state pension age. If this were to be implemented, people between the ages of 60 to 65 will have to wait even longer for this “freebie” benefit. Currently, free prescriptions are available to men and women once they turn 60. The state pension stands at 66 years of age.

Various organisations, such as Age UK, are sounding the alarm that millions of pensioners will be affected detrimentally by this rule.

While some older Britons are eligible for free prescriptions if they claim certain benefits or if they have a medical exemption, many are unable to claim this vital support.

On top of this, many over 60s would have been expecting to get free NHS medication once they turned 60 and may not have planned in advance.

While residents in England will be affected by this change, those who are living in Scotland and Wales do not need to pay prescription charges at all, no matter what age they are.

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On top of this, many over 60s would have been expecting to get free NHS medication once they turned 60 and may not have planned in advance.

While residents in England will be affected by this change, those who are living in Scotland and Wales do not need to pay prescription charges at all, no matter what age they are.

As of today, the average prescription charge is £9.35 per item. Many older people have multiple prescriptions which result in overall costs soaring.

In response to people’s concerns, the UK Government is suggesting they purchase a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC) which could cut their costs substantially.

However, this method requires purchasing either £30.25 for a three-month PPC or £108.10 for an annual certificate upfront which many cannot afford to do.

One woman named Sandra got in touch with Age UK to voice her anxieties over the Government’s proposal.

“I will soon be 60. I spend £9 odd on one item of medication,” she explained.

“At the moment I am afraid to tell the doctor of my added illness as I cannot afford the prescription price and barely manage my health issues with the medication I have.”

Barry, who is in 60s, added: “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.”

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, explained: “This proposed policy is a kick in the teeth, both for poorly older people and the NHS.

“It is also extremely ill-judged, because the money the Government will save by scrapping free prescriptions for 60-65 years olds will almost certainly be outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS, if people fail to take their medication because they can’t afford it and become ill.

“We are already hearing some older people on multiple medicines saying they will have to choose which ones to drop, and others are expecting to ration how much they take.

“The problem is that treatments don’t work like that: if the prescribed dosage says one tablet every day it may not work at all if you only take it every two or three days.”

She added: “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.”

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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