‘Absolutely diabolical!’ Veteran, 62, expresses fury at free prescription age change

Martin Lewis discusses prescription prepayment certificates

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Free prescription age currently stands at 60, however charges could be on the horizon as an age change may take place imminently. This would mean those between the ages of 60 to 65 may potentially be required to meet charges when it comes to their prescription. The idea of a prescription charge has angered many individuals, including one man who states the free prescription age should not be changed. 

Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Gene Plews, a 62-year-old from Lincolnshire, who is currently a part-time gardener. 

Mr Plews explained he has been at work part time since the age of 14, commencing full time work upon leaving school at 15 – and paying full National Insurance contributions. 

For 26 years, he ran a business where he paid the higher-rate of tax at 40 percent, then moving to become a county councillor, where he took no expenses.

Now working part-time, Mr Plews is also a British veteran, having served in the Coldstream Guards in the 1970s during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 

He expressed his frustration at the potential for the free prescription age to be changed. “It’s absolutely diabolical,” he said. “When it came to my attention about the potential for the free prescription age to change, I was disgusted.

“For me, it’s a matter of principle. Right from the age of 15, I’ve done the right thing, and I’ve worked hard – paid full NI, paid tax, never taken anything from state welfare benefits, served my country at physical cost.

“Now, we’ve got a Government, regardless of circumstance it seems, that want to claw money back for the NHS – but they’re targeting us to do it.

“At the end of the day, I feel this country owes me, owes us, for all we’ve done over the years.”

As a working older person, Mr Plews continues to pay National Insurance contributions, however, he is concerned about whether this will have any personal benefit to him.

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He continued: “About five or six years ago, I received a letter from the DWP telling me that due to the amount of time I’d been in work, all the NI payments I’ve since been paying essentially do not go towards my pension.

“We’re being told the free prescription age change is helping the NHS, but I think that is rubbish. Those of us who have surplus NI contributions are already paying towards the NHS, because these aren’t going to our state pensions.

“The Government is really picking on the older age group, most of us are still in work, and we’ve worked really hard. I don’t understand where this consultation is coming from.”

Mr Plews has sustained physical injuries from his time serving in the British Army, including loss of hearing from firing and knee pain which resulted in a knee replacement in 2013. 

However, he remains angry at what he perceives is a lack of help, stating: “At the moment, all I get is acid reflux tablets and a few eye drops. How much can that really be costing the NHS?

“And yet, by removing free prescriptions, I’ll have to pay out my own money for prescriptions even after serving my country.

“People like me aren’t being supported in the way we should be, and it isn’t fair.”

After writing to his local MP about the matter, Mr Plews stated he received correspondence which informs him about the number of exemptions available – which mean certain individuals do not have to pay for prescriptions.

At present, there are some 15 groups of people who do not have to meet the £9.35 per item charge.

Regardless, Mr Plews believes people have to “jump through too many hoops” in order to gain their exemption. He continued to express his frustration about the matter.

He concluded: “Older people, especially those who have been working for such a long time like me, have paid so much in National Insurance.

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“But the minute it’s our turn to reap the rewards, we’re having something important snatched away from us. We’ve done our bit now, and it’s about time we get at least something from the state. 

“For some people, it’s going to have a very significant effect. I’m sure there are many people who could give examples about how this is going to affect them financially.

“I feel very aggrieved about this. It feels like we’re being specifically targeted. They’ve taken the TV Licence from older people, they’ve taken away an earlier state pension age from older people. Bit by bit, they are chipping away at older people. It isn’t right.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions 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. No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”

The Department for Work and Pensions told Express.co.uk Britons can request a state pension forecast which provides them with information about what they will receive and when.

Individuals are also able to ask for a record of their National Insurance contributions to help them keep track of their payments. 

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