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‘A slippery slope’ Pensioners fear free NHS prescription age could rise AGAIN

During an exclusive interview, Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices, stated the group oppose the plans to raise the free NHS prescription age. He explained that for many people, it’s in their 60s when they begin to have to start taking medication for health conditions, or to try to prevent various conditions. “They start having to take more and more drugs to prevent more serious illness,” he said.

“So to save a few million pounds here or there, it’s madness…”

It’s not just the potential for people to opt against taking certain medication which they have been prescribed which is worrying Mr Reed and Silver Voices members though. Another concern is the potential for future age changes.

Currently, the state pension age for both men and women is 66, but further changes are ahead for this age to rise to 67 and then 68.

And for Mr Reed, there’s concern it could mean the free NHS prescription age would rise further too.

“It’s worrying because once you start down that road, who is to say the Government are not going to go, ‘Well people are living longer, so let’s bring in a free prescription at the age of 70′ in a couple of years’ time?

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“So it’s a slippery slope, which we don’t want to see. We don’t want to see anybody start saying that.”

The Government website states the “Aligning the upper age for NHS prescription charge exemptions with the State Pension age” is now a closed consultation.

It states that following the consultation, the Department for Health and Social Care will collate and consider all responses to the consultation. The department will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who will make a decision about whether to implement the proposed changes, and if so, about which of the options set out in the recent consultation will be implemented.

It confirmed the outcome of the consultation will usually be published within three months of the consultation closing date.

Earlier this month, health charities, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Geriatrics Society joined together to issue an open letter, urging the Government to rethink its proposal to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66.

The letter highlighted “deep shared concern” that scrapping free prescription charges for those aged 60 to 65 would likely intensify existing health inequalities, and have a devastating impact on some older people’s health.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “The money the Government raises if it goes ahead with this proposal will be easily outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS if, as is predictable, some people fail to take their medication and become sicker, more quickly.

“Tens of thousands may require hospital treatment due to rationing what they take, so this really is a bad idea that will hit people who are poorly and on modest incomes hardest of all.

“Once we reach our early to mid-sixties many of us are advised by our doctors to take medicines that are proven to keep potentially serious health conditions safely under control.

“If the Government goes ahead with its proposal, it is clear that some people will be reluctant to act on symptoms or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long term, symptom relieving or even in some cases lifesaving medication. The Government should definitely think again.”

Thorrun Govind, Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board Chair, said: “The proposal to raise the age at which people can access free prescriptions from 60 to 66 means that many more people will be affected by this tax on the sick at exactly the time at which they may be needing more medicines.

“It is unacceptable to raise the cost of prescriptions in the current economic situation when many have been disadvantaged by the pandemic. Such proposals will only further drive the health inequalities that have been highlighted by COVID-19.

“RPS would like to see the complete abolishment of prescription charges in England, whatever the age group, as is the case in Scotland and Wales.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk AT THE TIME: “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.

“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.”

The Department has said the consultation does not propose any other changes to existing exemption charges.



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