Save free prescriptions for 60-65 year olds
The Government has announced it is consulting on plans to move the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to the State Pension age, which is currently 66.
Read our report on why older people are anxious about these proposals.
What is the Government proposing?
The Government wants to up the age that someone can get their prescriptions free from 60 to 66. It’s said its preferred option is that anyone who is 60 or over when the changes are introduced won’t start paying. Even so, this change would mean 60-65 year olds in years to come will have to pay for their prescriptions if they don’t qualify for certain benefits or have a medical exemption.
You can read more about the Government's proposal on their website.
Why is Age UK opposed to this?
This is a bitter pill to swallow for millions in this age group, especially if their income is modest but takes them just above the benefit line. It also penalises those who need multiple medicines because they are managing several serious long term health conditions, like hypertension or heart disease.
The Government says these people could buy a certificate to cut their costs, at £108 a year. Seen from this point of view the Government’s proposal is really a stealth tax, which could extract an extra £600+ from men and women in their run-up to retirement.
Our biggest worry about this proposal is its potential impact on people’s health, especially if their money is tight. We are deeply concerned they may be reluctant to act on symptoms, seek medical advice or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long term, symptom relieving or even in some cases lifesaving medication.
Why we believe prescriptions should remain free for over 60s
The Government’s proposal is unfair because prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland and Wales. There’s a strong public health case for free prescriptions and we think we should be heading in that direction in England too.
Instead, our Government wants to do the opposite: make people pay for their medicines when they’re of an age when it’s important they take them, to control conditions that left untreated can lead to really serious medical problems, piling more pressure onto the NHS.
If ever there was a self-defeating policy we think this is it, and many medical experts agree with us.
What can we do?
We've been fighting back and making sure older people's views aren't ignored. Over the past month, nearly 40,000 of us have responded to the Department for Health and Social Care's consultation on the issue – thank you to everyone who's joined the campaign. Age UK and 23 other organisations have also written directly to the Health Secretary, urging him to think twice before scrapping free prescriptions.