‘Haven’t planned for charges!’ Fears of ‘lasting damage’ by axing free NHS prescriptions

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

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The business administrator from Norfolk was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in April 2019. Since her diagnosis, she has had to reduce her working hours and is just about managing to find the money to pay for her NHS prescriptions. Government proposals to axe free prescriptions for over 60s in England, increasing the age to state pension age, will hit her, and millions of others, hard.

It’s had a damaging effect on her finances at the same time as she’s noticed the cost of everyday bills rising.

Her household is really feeling the pinch at an already difficult time when Denise should be focusing on her health.

Until now, she has been managing to pay for her prescription charges by using a pre-payment certificate to make it cheaper, but has also had to dip into her savings which won’t last for much longer.

Denise was counting on NHS prescriptions becoming free for her when she turned 60.

However, Government plans mean that come April 2022, over 60s will have to pay despite the fact that it has been free for them in the past.

The controversial plans will leave millions of people between 60 and 65 with chronic conditions worse off and struggling to pay for essential medication.

To make matters worse – the prescription charge currently set at £9.35 – looks likely to increase at the same time, in a double blow to pensioners’ pockets.

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Denise said: “I always thought I would work until I was 67, because I would be able to.

“However, as my Parkinson’s advances I worry about whether I physically will be able to.

“My employer is really understanding, allowing flexibility to start later in the mornings until my medication has kicked in.

“I have already had to reduce my hours by 60 percent and I’m already noticing the impact of this reduced earning capacity on our household.

“I have to pay for my prescriptions and this is eating into the diminishing amount I can contribute towards the household bills.”

Denise continued: “If they were to increase the age at which I become exempt it would be really tough because we haven’t allowed for more years of these additional charges.

“It feels like the Government is once again penalising those living with a long-term condition like Parkinson’s that anyone could get and for which currently there is no cure.”

Laura Cockram, head of policy and campaigns at Parkinson’s UK and chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition said the proposals will be a disaster for tens of thousands of people.

“We recognise the NHS’s mammoth pandemic effort and want to safeguard future resources so it can bounce back.”

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Ms Cockram added: “However, this proposal risks more people choosing between which medicine they can afford, or which bill they can pay.

“Far from saving the NHS money, this proposal is likely to cost more and do lasting damage to the nation’s health.”

The Government announced plans to increase the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66 last year.

The change will bring them in line with the state pension age. The consultation into the proposal has now closed. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 89 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.”

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