As one of the “freebie” benefits provided by the Government, many older people and vulnerable people rely on free NHS prescriptions to survive. Currently, the cost of a prescription is £9.35 per item in England however some people have the option to bypass this levy. Recently, the Government consulted on a proposal to align the access to free NHS medication with the state pension age which is 66.
If this policy becomes law, millions of over 60s who would have been otherwise eligible for an exemption would have to pay for their prescriptions.
As a result of this proposal, those affected will be looking for alternative ways of getting a prescription exemption from the Government going forward.
Many Britons who are over the age of 60 may be included in one of the 15 groups eligible for medical exemptions from prescription costs.
Famously, anyone over the age of 60 in England is exempt from paying for their prescribed medication but this may no longer be a reality in the coming years.
Steve Webb, a partner at consultants LCP, outlined what is at stake for people in this group who are at risk of losing their exemption.
Mr Webb told Express.co.uk: “Large numbers of people in their sixties benefit from free prescriptions and may have no idea that this concession could be taken away from them.
“It is one thing to change the rules for the future so that those who are currently under sixty may have to wait longer to get free prescriptions, but quite another to take away this help from those already benefiting.
“Given the cost of living crisis we are all facing, this would be a particularly cruel change for a group of older people with healthcare needs.”
The second and third largest exemption groups are also based on age. Britons under the age of 16 and 16 to 18 years olds in full-time education, can get free NHS prescriptions.
Those with a specific medical condition and a valid medical exemption certification can claim a MedEx which qualifies them for free prescriptions.
On top of this, those who claim a valid NHS certificate to pay for the financial costs arising from treatment will not need to pay.
DWP benefit claimants may also be eligible for free NHS prescriptions if they are in receipt of specific payments.
These benefits include: the Guarantee Element of Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
Furthermore, Universal Credit claimants are eligible for this exemption if their earnings were £435 or less as of their last assessment.
The last group eligible for free NHS prescriptions are those who have a valid NHS tax credits exemption certificate.
This group will be exempt if they claim Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.
Speaking previously to Express.co.uk, a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The age people get free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men so we are consulting on aligning the upper age exemption from prescription charges with the state pension age.
“We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.
“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.”