Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions
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Over 60s in England could be left waiting years until they are entitled to the freebie benefit, if a proposal were to come into force. 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.
The state pension age in the UK is currently 66, however this is set to change in the upcoming years.
This means that millions of people, who would have otherwise been entitled to free prescriptions, would have to wait longer if the plans come into effect.
However residents in Scotland and Wales are able to claim free prescriptions via the NHS no matter what age they are.
The two options presented by the Department of Health in a public consultation focussed on the implementation of this change.
Option A would raise the free prescription age immediately to 66, while Option B would only introduce this for new over-60s.
In its plans, the Government state: “Option B is to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to the state pension age (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.”
As the cost of living crisis continues, the possible rule change could mean millions more people paying for their prescriptions which would only put a further financial squeeze on their lives.
Britons with certain conditions are urged to claim their free prescriptions as this could save in the long term.
The qualifying factors for free prescriptions:
- Those who are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, with a valid maternity exemption certificate
- Students and apprentices in a form of post-16 education
- Anyone with a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate
- People with a continuing physical disability that prevents them from going out without help from another person, with a valid medical exemption certificate
- War pensioners with an exemption certificate and where the prescription is for an accepted disability
- Any NHS inpatient
- Those receiving welfare benefits such as Universal Credit – if they also meet the NHS’ financial criteria.
Alternatively one of the main ways people save money on prescriptions is by purchasing a prepayment certificate or a PPC that is otherwise known.
Those who need regular medication it may opt to save by buying the certificate, which covers prescriptions for a period of time.
Once someone is in receipt of this concession, all of their prescriptions are covered under it.
An individual who claims two rounds of medication a month could receive a discount which would save them £100 a year.
This discount is accessible via the NHS prescriptions website and people have the option to pay by card or direct debit.
Savers can choose to purchase a prepayment certificate for three months or 12 months, depending on their circumstances.
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, 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.”
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