‘Pensioners have less money!’ Britons demand NHS free prescription age remain at 60

Martin Lewis discusses prescription prepayment certificates

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Free prescriptions are an important entitlement for older people living in England, as otherwise, they would be required to meet a charge of £9.35 per item. However, for those in the age category of 60-65, the free entitlement could be set to disappear, as a Government consultation looks to increase the eligibility age. It could mean many over 60s now have to meet costs when it comes to medicine, which many have lamented.

Indeed, some have shared their frustrations more formally, taking to the Parliament website to sign a petition on the matter. 

The petition is entitled ‘Protect free NHS prescriptions for over 60s’ and directly references the proposals. 

It states: “Continue to give free NHS prescriptions to over 60s. The Government is consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the state pension age, which would render many people in their 60s ineligible.

“Over 60s are generally more susceptible to health issues, and after pension age have less money available to pay large sums for repeated prescriptions.”

At the time of writing, the petition has garnered some 1,227 signatures, but this means it is still some way away from triggering a Government response.

For petitions published on the Parliament website, it is necessary to gain 10,000 signatures for the Government to respond.

If a petition were to reach 100,000 signatures, it would be considered for debate in Parliament as the next step.

Prescription charges were first introduced in 1952, abolished and then reintroduced, with exemptions, in 1968 due to budgetary pressures.

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Looking back at the history of exemptions for prescriptions, the age traditionally stood at 65 and over, however, it was later extended.

In 1974, women aged 60 and over could get free prescriptions, and men aged 60 and over were able to secure the entitlement in 1995, based on the state pension age for women at that time.

However, with the current state pension age at 66 for both men and woman, the consultation has said there is a “disconnect” between the age-based exemption and state pension age.

The state pension age is also set to rise in the future, with legislation in place to increase it to 67 and then to 68 in future years. 

As a result, if the free prescription age were to be aligned with state pension age, it could mean those living in England have to wait even longer to receive the entitlement as the SPA rises. 

At this point, however, a decision on the matter is yet to be made. This is because the consolation is currently seeking views.

It is to consider a number of options for aligning the prescription charge exemption upper age to the state pension age, and it will remain open for eight weeks. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “The age people get free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men so we are consulting on aligning the upper age exemption from prescription charges with the state pension age.

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“We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.  

“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.” 

For those who take regular medication, a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is recommended. It means anyone can obtain the prescriptions they require for just over £2 per week.

The DHSC states prescription charges make a important contribution to the NHS budget, as between 2015/16 and 2019/20, the charges generated over £2.8billion for the NHS’s essential running costs for frontline services.

Regarding state pension age, the Government has abolished the default “retirement age” and people can now continue in work after reaching the ages of 60 or 65.

The Department added this means many more people in the 60-65 age range can remain in employment and be economically active, thus more able to meet the cost of their prescriptions.

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