The Government wants to cut expenses post-Covid by excluding 2.4 million people aged 60-65 from free prescriptions. Ministers have argued this move is a sensible and fair one because the age requirement for free prescriptions in England has not been updated since 1974 for women – and 1995 for men.
But, according to a poll of 4,482 Express readers held from October 8 to 11, 84 percent of respondents said free prescriptions should not be axed for those aged 60.
Numerous voters asked “Why should the English pay for their prescriptions at any age, if the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish don’t?” (username saralisa).
Reader Martin Brookes remarked: “Surely people in England should be entitled to the same FREE prescriptions as the rest of the UK.”
Since 2011, the devolved nations have made NHS prescriptions free for all, while the last decade has seen English prescription fees rise higher and higher.
Prescriptions were free for all when the NHS was set up in 1948, but charges were introduced in the early 1950s to plug gaps in funding.
Since Covid, the UK has been plunged into £2.21trillion of national debt, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been looking for ways to lift Britain out of an economic crisis.
Encouraged by Boris, Mr Sunak has raised National Insurance charges by 1.25 percent and included earning pensioners in the fee.
Express.co.uk asked readers how the Treasury’s new plan to cut costs would affect them, and a staggering 73 percent of voters said they could not afford to pay for medications if the 60-65 age exemption was scrapped.
Age UK have warned that a move to scrap the age exemption would put more financial strain on the NHS rather than relieving it.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “There is ample evidence showing that older carers often struggle with their own health problems, so making them start paying for their medication simply risks them becoming even less fit and well.
“When a carer’s health breaks down and they are unable to continue to care then this is not only bad news for them and their loved one, it piles extra pressure on our beleaguered health and care system too.
“So why is the Department of Health and Social Care considering adopting a policy that makes carer breakdown more likely, and at a time when we are not yet out of the woods of the pandemic?”
“The money the NHS saves from making more people buy their medication is almost certain to be outweighed by the costs of treating health conditions that worsen, because some 60-65 year olds adhere less rigorously to their prescribed treatment regimes.”
In defence of the Government plan, a spokesperson for the Health and Social Care department reminded the public that support is available for those on a low income – and prescription certificates are offered at £108.10 a year, working out at just over £2 per week.
Express readers said that instead of changing the qualifying age for free prescriptions, other changes should be made to the prescription system.
Susan Denham commented: “Free prescriptions are a lifeline for many, but they should be limited to medications that are not available over the counter.
“It makes no sense to be writing a prescription for paracetamol that can be picked up in the supermarket for a few pence when each script itself is so costly to the NHS.
“There should be common sense brought into the system.”
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