Free NHS prescriptions can be helpful, especially for those juggling different medications. However, recent Government proposals have suggested the free prescription age, currently set at 60, should instead be aligned with state pension age – currently 66. Consequently, many more people could find they have to meet a charge they were not previously required to pay.
This is only the case for those living in England, as in other parts of the UK, prescriptions are free for all.
The charge, for those who are not exempt in some way, is not an optional one, and the NHS actually has enforcement powers on the matter.
As such, the health body has issued a stark warning, telling Britons “don’t run the risk” over non-payment.
It is the responsibility of the individual concerned to check they are entitled to a free prescription.
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The penalty charge is set at five times the original amount owed, up to a maximum of £100.
Once this notice is issued, if no payment has been made within 28 days, people may also be subject to an additional surcharge.
It is also the responsibility of the person concerned to make sure the correct box is ticked on the back of their prescription.
This is the case whether it is ticked by them, someone on their behalf, or pharmacy staff.
If and when a person receives a Penalty Charge Notice, they must respond to it by the deadline stated on the form or face further charge.
All people will need to do is go to the NHS website and pay their Penalty Charge Notice with a debit or credit card.
Alternatively, some may feel the charge has been issued unfairly, and in this case they can challenge it.
This can only be done if a person was entitled to claim free NHS prescriptions or had a prescription prepayment certificate at the time, or if there is an “exceptional reason” not to pay.
If a person fits into the latter circumstance, they must also be able to show they did not “act wrongfully or with any lack of care”.
The NHS explains: “We won’t usually accept a challenge if your exemption certificate had expired, or you feel that you were misadvised by your doctor or pharmacy staff.”
The decision has not yet been released on free prescription age changes, however, some experts believe the alteration could come into force “from April”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions 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 between this and the state pension age.
“No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”