‘It will do lasting damage’: Campaigners rally for NHS free prescription age not to change

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

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The Government is considering raising the age of eligibility for free NHS prescriptions in England from 60 to 66. For those who rely on taking medicine on a daily basis, campaigners say future costs could be dangerously high.

Laura Cockram, chair of the campaign group Prescription Charges Coalition, said: “Charging for prescriptions would be a disaster for tens of thousands of people who may face a new barrier to accessing their vital medicines.

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

“The proposal risks more people choosing between which medicine they can afford, or which bills they can pay.”

An estimated £600million was made through prescription charges in 2019. Campaigners warn that this figure could increase if the changes go ahead.

The plans could bring in an extra £300million for the NHS by 2026/27 – but some have said restricting people’s access to health treatment will be far more costly in the long run.

Age UK is taking matters into its own hands by launching a campaign to save free prescriptions for over-60s in the UK.

In a recent statement, Caroline Abrahams, charity Age UK’s director, said: “We are already hearing some older people on multiple medicines saying they will have to choose which ones to drop, and others are expecting to ration how much they take.

“The problem is that treatments don’t work like that.

“If the prescribed dosage says one tablet every day it may not work at all if you only take it every two or three days.”

The campaign has launched a petition to the Prime Minister which has received over 98,000 signatures, less than 2,000 away from prompting a parliamentary debate.

Patients in England are currently given free prescriptions when they turn 60, while medicines are free to everyone in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But if the proposal goes ahead, the age for free NHS prescriptions would be pushed back to 66 – in line with the state pension age.

As one of the benefits provided by the Government, many older and vulnerable people rely on free NHS prescriptions to survive.

Currently, the cost of a prescription is £9.35 per item in England however some people have the option to bypass this levy.

People under 60 can save money on prescriptions by buying prescription prepayment certificates (PPC).

The certificate offers two different payment options:
• Three months worth of prescriptions for £30.25
• 12 months worth of prescriptions for £104

If more than 11 items are needed in a year, a 12-month PPC will help Britons save money, costing a little over £2 per week.

Certain health conditions and circumstances may also qualify a person for a free prescription.

This is worth checking via the NHS website, which offers further details.

Anyone living in England can apply for the prepayment certificate online, via telephone or in their local pharmacy.

Applicants are also advised to check if they qualify for other exemptions, benefits or discounts before applying for the certificate.

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