Currently, those who are living in England are able to qualify for free medication on the NHS once they reach turn 60. However, the Government has outlined plans to align eligibility for free prescriptions with the state pension age. If this were to be implemented, older people in England would have to wait longer to access the “freebie” benefit.
Over 60s, who would have otherwise been entitled to free prescriptions, would have to wait longer if the plans came into effect.
The state pension age in the UK is currently 66, however this is set to change in the coming years as well.
It should be noted that residents in Scotland and Wales are able to claim free prescriptions via the NHS no matter what age they are.
The Government has shared two potential ways it could implement this state pension age change which would alter who is eligible for free prescriptions going forward.
Option A is to raise the qualifying age to 66 outright, while Option B is to do so with a “period of reflection” which would allow over 60s to continue getting free NHS medication.
The Government stated: “Option B is to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to the SPA (currently 66) but with a period of protection, which would mean that people in the age range 60 to 65 would continue to receive free prescriptions.
“This would mean that anyone aged 60 and over when the changes to the charges regulations are implemented would continue to be exempt from prescription charges.
“Whereas those aged 59 and under when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the SPA (currently 66), unless they qualified for another exemption.
“The above options would have varying impacts for people who need NHS prescriptions, and could raise additional revenue for the NHS.”
Despite this age change being potentially detrimental to older people in England, there are otherwise to qualify for the extra support.
Stuart Gale, the chief pharmacist at Oxford Online Pharmacy, noted that Britons can check their eligibility for free prescriptions even if they have not reached the state pension age.
Mr Gale explained: “With everyone’s costs rising at the moment, prescription and medicine charges are one great cost-cutting area that shouldn’t be overlooked to help save money on your health needs.”
“Consumers in England should first check if they can qualify for any free prescriptions – this can include Medical Exemption Certificates ‘MEDEX’ for conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroid and cancer.
“Prescribed contraceptives are also free or if you’re pregnant, or gave birth in the last year a Maternity Exemption Certificate ‘MATEX’ will provide free medicines.
“You’re also entitled to free prescriptions if you’re under 16 or over 60, in full-time education aged 16-18, you’re an NHS inpatient, on income support, jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit – so check with your pharmacist if you could qualify.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 90 percent of community prescription items in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60 years old, 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 with the state pension age.
“We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”