NHS-free prescriptions: Millions of older Britons would be left behind as they age

More than three million older Britons will lose free medicines if Government proposals come into force. Government reports indicate that this change would disproportionately affect low-income people, women and minorities the most.

Physician or doctor writing a diagnosis and giving the patient a doctor's prescription
Those aged 60 to 66 could see their free prescription fees reduced

Under current rules, Brits will get free NHS prescriptions from the age of 60. However, this could change due to new proposals currently being weighed by Health Minister Sajid Javid.

One of the government’s proposals is to end free prescriptions for 60-66 year olds in England – affecting more than three million older Britons.

According to the government’s own analysis, this would disproportionately affect women, minorities and people with lower incomes.

NHS prescription fees are currently at £9.35, with the price frozen for next year amid the cost of living crisis.

A public consultation to end free prescriptions for people aged 60 to 65 was held in September 2021, but the publication of its results was delayed by months.

A petition against the change, which received 40,000 signatures in January, received a government response that said: “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is carefully reviewing the findings and there will be an announcement detailing the government’s response and action.” at a given time.”

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Sajid Javid submitted the proposals



The Minister of Health offers two options in his proposals. Option A is to implement the change immediately for 60-65 year olds; and Option B is to delay and implement the change for those under 60 years old.

AgeUK called these changes a “bitter pill to swallow” for many older people who are already struggling but are not eligible for benefits, and that it is effectively a “secret tax” for pre-retirement men and women.

They said: “Our main concern about this proposal is its potential impact on people’s health, especially when their money is tight.

“We are deeply concerned that they may be reluctant to act on symptoms, seek medical advice or receive a diagnosis for fear they may not be able to afford long-term, symptom-relieving or, in some cases, life-saving medication.”

The Government has defended its plans, citing statistics that 89 per cent of all prescriptions in England are free and that the remaining 11 per cent brings in more than £600m in revenue to the NHS.

The money raised from paid prescriptions represents 3.5 per cent of the total £17 billion the healthcare sector will spend on medicines in 2021.

Those who have a repeat prescription but don’t qualify for an exemption can pay an annual fee of £108.10 for an unlimited-use prescription prepayment certificate – or apply for the NHS Low Income Support Scheme if they earn less than £16,000 .

Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

In Scotland and Wales, all prescriptions are completely free.

Currently in England anyone over 60 and under 16 can get an unlimited number of prescription items free of charge.

The other groups that benefit from free recipes are:

  • Those who are pregnant or have had a baby within the past 12 months with a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • Students and trainees in some form of training after 16 years
  • Individuals with a specific medical condition and a valid medical exemption certificate
  • People with a persistent physical disability that prevents them from leaving the home without assistance from another person, with a valid medical exemption certificate
  • War pensioners with a certificate of exemption and recognized disability
  • Any inpatient NHS patient
  • Income Assistance, Earnings-Contingent Unemployment Assistance, Earnings-Conditioned Employment and Assistance Assistance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, Universal Credit, and meet the financial criteria

What does the government’s analysis say?

The Equality Act 2010 requires public authorities to analyze how policy changes will affect different groups within society.

While you can read the full report here, below are the implications of the government’s intended change.

  • People with disabilities – Accepting that the change will disproportionately affect people with disabilities, they said: ‘There is a possibility that people in the 60-65 age group will be discouraged from claiming and using their medication correctly in order to improve their financial to reduce costs.
    “The deterrent effect is probably most prevalent in long-term conditions, some of which can be classified as disabilities, where full medication compliance is important to manage the condition and people have to pay for regular prescriptions over a long period of time. ”
  • woman – Citing the gender pay gap and the disproportionate burden of care borne by women, they said: “Increasing the age for exemption from prescriptions could have a greater impact on women than on men as they may be less able to afford it, to pay; other exemptions such as the NHS Low Income Scheme (NHS LIS) and exemptions related to applying for Universal Credit are available to protect the most vulnerable.”
  • Racial and Minority Groups – Referring to structural inequality and poorer health outcomes for minority groups, they said: “People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have long-term health problems that require medications, not all of which would be covered by a medical exemption.
    “For example, estimates of disability-free life expectancy are about 10 years lower for Bangladeshi men and 12 years lower for Pakistani women, compared to their white British counterparts.”

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/nhs-free-prescriptions-age-rise-26884135 NHS-free prescriptions: Millions of older Britons would be left behind as they age

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