Thousands at risk of losing free prescriptions as state pensions overhaul

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Under the Health Secretary’s proposals, older Britons could miss out on the free medicines previous generations were entitled to – while thousands still don’t realize they are eligible for free NHS prescriptions

Health Department proposals could see people over 60 lose their free prescriptions

Britons over 60 have had their NHS prescribed medicines free for over half a century.

However, a planned change to prescriptions proposed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid could see millions of older Britons forced to pay for their essential medicines.

The change would tie the age at which people get free prescriptions to the state retirement age, which is currently 66 but is expected to increase further. This could mean young Britons may have to wait until they are 68 to claim free prescriptions.

It’s obvious the government is aiming to scrap this free benefit for people aged 60-66, as Javid has only offered two options – both of which would permanently scrap the benefit for that age group.

It should be noted that all prescriptions in Scotland and Wales will remain free, as this change will only affect England. Likewise, this change will only affect those who automatically get free prescriptions due to age – meaning those who qualify due to illness or disability will still receive their medications for free.

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The two options presented by the Ministry of Health during a public consultation relate to the implementation of this change. Option A would immediately raise the age of free prescription to 66, while Option B would introduce it only for new over-60s.

In its plans, the government says: “Option B is to raise the age of eligibility for free prescriptions to statutory retirement age (currently 66) but with a protection period, which would mean that people aged 60 to 65 would continue to receive free prescriptions.

“This would mean that anyone aged 60 and over at the time the fee regulation changes are implemented would continue to be exempt from dispensing fees.

“While people aged 59 and under when the fee rule changes are implemented would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach SPA (currently 66), unless they do not qualify for another exemption.

“The options above would have varying impacts for people who need NHS prescriptions and could generate additional revenue for the NHS.”

While these changes will see millions more people pay for their prescriptions, many who qualify for free prescriptions are not claiming them. Qualifying factors for free prescriptions can be found below:

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘Around 90 per cent of community prescription items in England are free and people don’t pay if they are on low income, over 60 or have certain medical conditions.

“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we consulted on re-establishing the link with the statutory retirement age.

“We are carefully reviewing the responses and will respond in due course.”

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