Free prescriptions will NOT be abolished for millions over 60s as government scraps controversial plan to raise age exemption to 66
Millions of people over 60 will not be forced to pay prescriptions, ministers confirmed today.
Officials have tossed out controversial proposals to raise the age at which patients in England are eligible for free scripts.
It would have seen the age exemption rise from 60 to 66, in line with the country’s state pension age.
Health chiefs viewed it as a proposal to boost the income of the ailing NHS.
Before the move was opened to public consultation, it was estimated that it could raise an additional ?300 million by 2026/27.
Officials have tossed out controversial proposals to raise the age at which patients in England are eligible for free scripts
Who can get free prescriptions?
You can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, you:
- are 60 years or older
- are younger than 16
- Be 16 to 18 years old and be in full-time education
- are pregnant or have had a baby within the last 12 months and have a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate (MatEx)
- have a specified medical condition and have a valid Medical Exemption Certificate (MedEx).
- have a persistent physical disability that prevents you from going outside without assistance from another person and have a valid Medical Exemption Certificate (MedEx)
- be in possession of a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
- are an NHS patient
You are also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including registered partner) receive, or you are under 20 years old and dependent on someone receiving:
- Income support
- means-tested allowance for job seekers
- income-related labor and support allowance
- Pension credit Guarantee credit
- Universal Credit and meet the criteria
However, officials acknowledged that “people are not allowed to take their prescription drugs because of cost.” As a result, it could have put additional strain on GPs, emergency and social care, it was claimed.
Charities said it would be a ‘kick in the teeth’ for older people.
Health Secretary Neil O’Brien announced the policy would be dropped today, saying the majority of the more than 117,000 comments opposed the change.
Mr O’Brien told the House of Commons in a written parliamentary statement: ‘Responses cited pressures on the cost of living and the risks to the health of people who do not take prescribed medicines correctly, among others, as reasons for the current exemption for the highest age.
“This government is committed to addressing cost-of-living pressures and has decided that the prescription age exemption will remain at 60, meaning it will not be adjusted to the state pension age.”
Currently, patients must pay ?9.65 per prescription item.
Currently, patients in England get free prescriptions when they turn 60. This has not changed since 1974 for women and 1995 for men.
More people are claiming free prescriptions as more and more people are living longer.
There are also exemptions for children, 16-18 years and full-time education.
People who use a lot of medicines can also apply for an NHS prepayment certificate which limits the price they pay for medicines.
Campaigners have long called the fee patients have to pay to secure certain drugs such as warfarin or asthma inhalers an “unfair burden on health.”
Jay Badenhorst, vice president of the National Pharmacy Association, said: ‘People should not be denied access to prescription drugs based on their ability to pay.
?With today’s decision, we prevent many more people from being dragged into that situation.
?From a pharmacist’s point of view, processing prescription charges is a labor-intensive task, but it does not benefit the patient. We are healthcare professionals and have no interest in being tax collectors.
There would be little financial return for the NHS from raising the maximum age for exemption. It could lead to indirect costs for the NHS as people’s health suffers if they make an unwilling choice not to take their medicines as prescribed.
“Ultimately, we would like to see the government go further and do away with prescriptions altogether, although we accept that this is not currently on the table.”