Over 60s urged to claim free prescriptions as eligibility age may rise

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

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The proposed changes to free NHS prescriptions for over 60s would see older people waiting until the state pension age to receive their medications free of charge. These changes could happen as soon as April 1, but those that are currently eligible could claim free prescriptions as soon as possible.

The proposed changes have two options for being put in place by Government:

Option A involves immediately realigning the free prescription age from 60 to 66 meaning that everyone under the age of 65 will need to pay prescription charges unless they qualify for a different exemption.

Option B will protect Britons currently between the ages of 60 and 66 when the changes are implemented so they can continue having free prescriptions. 

While some may suggest Option B could protect British finances, it would see anyone aged 59 waiting six years for their free prescriptions while those born just a few months before will receive them from the age of 60.

This six year gap, regardless of which option is chosen, could see millions being forced to cover the costs out of pocket during a cost of living crisis. 

Currently, NHS prescriptions are offered free of charge for all of those aged 60 and over as opposed to the general price of £9.35 per item.

However, statistically this age group already has a higher likelihood of having individuals with multiple long-term health conditions, meaning that few prescription bills will stop at the £9.35.

Like the retirement age increase, this proposed change is one that pre-pensioners have not planned on or budgeted for.

There is widespread concern that this move could see a variety of potential impacts for low-income over 60s:

  • Sacrificing their current standard of living to afford their medication
  • Sacrificing retirement savings in the vital run-up to pension age
  • Rationing their prescribed medication to make it last longer which would impact the effectiveness of their treatment
  • Not getting their prescribed medication as they cannot afford it. 

There are pre-payment certificates on offer, which require patients to pay an upfront fee for either three or 12 month certificates regardless of how many prescriptions they have. 

Pre-payment certificates currently cost £30.25 for three months and £108.10 for 12 months. 

Anyone taking multiple prescribed medications in this time period could save money with these certificates but those who only receive one monthly prescription will likely not benefit from this scheme.

This is because the price of one prescription item per month for three months is only £27.75. 

This has also caused concern as it could lead to many over 60s panic buying unnecessary certificates in fear of the potential free prescription axing, costing them more money than their normal prescriptions would. 

Additionally, the low income over 60s that will be most impacted by this change may not be able to afford the upfront cost of the certificates in the first place. 

There are other free NHS treatments and items available depending on one’s circumstances, as Britons claiming the following benefits could qualify for assistance with their NHS costs:

  • Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “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, 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 between this and the state pension age.

“We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course. Extensive arrangements are already in place to help people afford NHS prescriptions.”

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