GMB: Martin Lewis advises how to save on prescriptions
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This could hammer millions of older people living in England with chronic conditions. They currently get their NHS prescriptions for free but may soon have to pay for them. Increasing the prescription charge at the same time would add insult to injury.
Charging the over-60s for NHS prescriptions would also worsen the cost of living crisis, putting further pressure on older people’s pockets.
The next few months will see a blizzard of tax and price hikes, as income tax bills, National Insurance charges, energy prices, council tax demands and rail fares all get more punitive, warned Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.
The NHS prescription tax raid would come on top of all these.
Last year, the Government announced plans to lift the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to age 66, to bring them into line with the State Pension age.
It said many people aged from 60 to 65 remain in employment and can therefore afford to meet the cost.
Coles believes the reform is likely to come into force on April 1, the same day that prescription charges typically increase.
“At the moment there’s no charge for over 60s but that could soon change. If it does, it would drag millions of people into having to pay for essential medicines.”
On April 1 last year, the prescription charge increased by 20p, from £9.15 to £9.35, a rise of 2.1 percent in line with inflation.
At the time, the Prescription Charges Coalition dubbed the increase as a “tax on health” and warned some patients are being forced to choose between everyday essentials like food and their medicine. It said on its current trajectory the charge could hit £10.15 by 2025.
If prescription charges rise continue to rise by inflation they could get even more expensive, with price growth expected to top six percent this year.
Coles said the Government has yet to confirm if prescription charges will rise but warned: “2022 is a year of change, but not in a good way. Most of the financial developments in the pipeline will leave us worse off.”
Over the past 10 years, the cost of prescriptions has risen by a thumping 26.4 percent, an increase of £1.95 per item, according to a report by Chemist4U.
Those with serious conditions can limit the total cost by purchasing a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), which costs £108.10 for a year of “free” prescriptions. However, this could also rise with inflation.
Prescription Charges Coalition chair Laura Cockram is battling moves to make the over 60s pay for NHS prescriptions, warning of “the dire impact of the proposals on those living with health conditions”.
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Age UK has called plans to end free NHS prescriptions for the over 60s in England a “bitter pill to swallow for millions”.
Director Caroline Abrahams said prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland and Wales and the principle should be extended to England, too.
The Royal College of GPs and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society are also campaigning against the changes, and Abrahams said: “We want the Government to realise this will hit those on lower incomes hardest.”
If the change is made, 60-65 year olds may continue to qualify for free NHS prescriptions if they are on a low income, qualify for certain benefits or have a medical exemption.
The Government’s consultation on the changes closed on 3 September and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it will respond “in due course”.
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