'Kick in the teeth!' Fury at UK plan to raise free prescription age sparks fierce backlash

Electronic prescriptions set to save NHS £300m by 2021

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The move could bring in an extra £300million for the NHS by 2026/27 and would be the first change to the free prescriptions policy since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men. Charity Age UK has launched a new “Save Free Prescriptions” campaign in response to the government proposal, and they say 2.4 million people aged 60-65 could have to start paying for their prescriptions.


A majority of 74 percent of voters thought the government should not raise the qualifying age for free prescription to 66, to mirror the state pension age, in a poll of 5,952 people held on Express.co.uk between 1pm August 17 and 1pm August 18.

One voter argued: “There are a lot of people out there who are working just to survive.

“If they had to pay for prescriptions as well, I wonder what they would do, just work until they died, unable to pay for a prescription, or pack in work and stay alive on the dole?”

Another said sarcastically: “Brilliant idea, steal their hard-earned cash, then make them pay over and above… unbelievable.”

Campaigners have argued that charging 60-65 year olds for prescriptions may force those surviving on little money to abandon their medication and become seriously ill as a result.

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 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.”

60-65 year olds prescription payments

All over 60s currently qualify for free prescriptions regardless of their wealth or working status (Image: Getty)

Increasing the qualifying age for free prescriptions is likely to exacerbate existing health inequalities in the UK, according to 72 percent of voters.

Age UK said: “People will be particularly affected if their income is modest but takes them just above the benefit line.

“It also penalises people in poor health and in need of multiple medicines because they are managing several serious long term health conditions, like heart disease or hypertension – one of a number of conditions which are more prevalent among Black African and Black Caribbean ethnic groups.”

Jan Shortt, National Pensioners Convention general secretary, said: “This will have a massive negative effect on the health of pensioners who lose their free prescriptions.

“Prescription charges are not affordable if you are on low income without financial help of some kind.”

READ MORE: Free prescriptions could be axed for MILLIONS – are you affected?

But, on the other side of the argument, many feel that the subsidies currently offered by the NHS, such as prescription certificates, provide enough financial support to make increasing the free prescription age to 66 a reasonable plan.

Anyone can buy a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC), which costs £108.10 a year, working out at under £10 per month for an unlimited number of prescriptions.

One reader said: “£10 per month for as many prescriptions as you need. Bargain.”

Another voter commented: “Do I like the idea of raising the age bracket – no, but as long as the NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate is retained, to effectively cap the annual cost and help mitigate the impact, then it might be necessary to at least trial it.”


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Other readers argued that free prescriptions should not automatically apply to all over 60’s, including people who work or are millionaires.

SandieL said: “If you are in full-time work, then you should pay for your prescriptions!

“Anyone who is in work and over 60 should not benefit from free prescriptions, bus passes, or cold weather payments.

“These things should be for the people who cannot afford to pay for the items, not a subsidy for people who work.

“People like Elton John, Tom Jones, and other older pop stars and tv personalities can all claim freebies. Why?”

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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