Raising free prescription age is dangerous and 'ill-judged'


A Government proposal to raise the free prescription age by six years would be a 'kick in the teeth' for millions, warns Age UK charity.

In July, ministers launched a consultation to raise the age for NHS prescription exemptions from 60 to the State Pension age of 66.

However, Age UK said that the policy negatively impacts over two million elderly Britons and the NHS.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's Charity Director, said: "This proposed policy is a kick in the teeth, both for poorly older people and the NHS.

"It is also extremely ill-judged because the money the Government will save by scrapping free prescriptions for 60-65 years olds will almost certainly be outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS if people fail to take their medication because they can't afford it and become ill."

Prescription charges generate approximately £600 million in revenue for the NHS each year. Out of 1.1 billion medications dispensed in England in 2018, 63% of all items were free of charge because the patient was aged 60 or over. The Government believes that increasing the upper age exemption will generate additional revenue for the NHS frontline services[i].

The Charity argues that the move could affect millions of people reaching 60 in the future unless they qualify for certain benefits. It also penalises people in poor health and those who need multiple medicines because they manage several long-term health conditions.

Those concerned by the proposal has already contacted Age UK. Barry, in his early 60s, said: "Having been forced into retirement seven years ago due to a stroke, my income dried up, and my savings have long since gone. Without free prescriptions, I would almost certainly opt to miss some medicines, thereby possibly making myself ill."

Age UK is worried that scrapping free prescription charges for 60-65-year-olds will likely exacerbate existing health inequalities and have a devastating impact on many people's health, especially if they are already struggling with living costs.

[i] Aligning the upper age for NHS prescription charge exemptions with the State Pension age - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)