State pension age increases may be brought forward, as a review has been launched by the Government on the matter. It is considering bringing forward the age at which people become eligible for the state pension to 68 – moving this to 2037 to 2039. At present, the state pension age is only set to increase to 68 between the years of 2044 to 2046.
But this could be further bad news for those who are hoping to secure their free prescription entitlement.
At present, Britons are awaiting the results of a Government consultation which could see the free prescription age change from its current level.
Free prescriptions are set to be under threat, following a Government consultation on the age at which people no longer have to pay.
It has been suggested the free prescription age rises to align with the state pension age – currently at 66 and increasing.
But if state pension age changes accelerate, and the free prescription alteration goes ahead, it could mean Britons wait even longer for costs to be avoided.
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Also a matter of concern is the spiralling cost of COVID-19, which has put an additional strain on the NHS.
There are fears the Government’s hand could be forced to make free prescription age changes in attempts to recoup at least some of the money spent throughout the pandemic.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, told Express.co.uk: “Prescriptions for over-60s have been free for more than 25 years, and while moving the qualifying age up to 66 might save the Government some money it would only be a drop in the ocean, while having a disastrous impact on some older people’s health.
“In the end, we think that moving the qualifying age up to 66 could prove to be considerably more expensive than keeping it where it is, especially if it means risk factors for serious illness are less well controlled than before.
“It also goes without saying that the health impacts on some individuals could be pretty devastating, if their conditions worsen as a result.
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“Not only is this idea likely to be extremely unpopular with over 60s up and down the land, it could well be self-defeating for the Treasury too if it leads to higher treatment costs for the NHS.
“Since Ministers first consulted on this proposal it has become clearer just how many people, including in this age group, have Long Covid and other health problems associated with the virus, leading them to be poorly and to have an ongoing need for medication of various kinds.
“As we begin our third pandemic year this is scarcely the time to impede anyone’s access to treatment, but that’s effectively what the Government will be doing if it makes the 60-65s pay for their prescriptions, when previously they’ve been free.”
The news is particularly concerning given recent research which has demonstrated the cost of prescriptions for average Britons.
James O’Loan, pharmacist and CEO at Chemist4U, said: “Prescription medications are a brilliant way of treating many medical conditions, and make a real difference in keeping us a fit and healthy population.
“However, in many cases, we may now be used to expecting a prescription as soon as we see a doctor or prescribing professional, when it may not always be necessary.
“Alongside the cost of prescriptions and medicines as a whole, this is definitely a cause for concern.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson recently told Express.co.uk: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions.
“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age.
“No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”
The DHSC is currently analysing the feedback from those who participated in the consultation.