Free NHS prescriptions help make healthcare more affordable for millions of older people every year. Changes proposed by the Government threaten to reduce the number of Britons who can benefit.
Currently, anyone over the age of 60 in the UK gets access to free prescriptions.
However, the Government has tabled proposals which would bring the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England in line with the state pension age.
The state pension age is currently 66 in the UK for men and women.
These proposals have drawn the ire of older Britons, particularly women who have already seen their state pension age increase in recent years.
READ MORE: Pensioners may get up to £358 per month if living with muscle pain or other conditions
Many women born in the 1950s have argued that because of the way the state pension age changes were implemented, they were not given sufficient notice and therefore did not have time to adapt and change their retirement plans.
Still being able to access free medication at age 60 is one of the silver linings for women who saw their state pension age rise, but this could soon change.
WASPI’s communications director Debbie de Spon, has told Express.co.uk that the campaign group has received many messages from women, both worried and angry at the proposal to change eligibility age.
She said: “These are women, born in the 1950s, already seriously impacted by increases to their state pension age without adequate notice or time to make alternative arrangements.
“Their savings are gone, and age-related medical issues find them more dependent on medication.
“Many are already making difficult choices in meeting day to day expenses, and this additional burden will make that situation worse. For many it’s a question of heat, eat or stay well?”
WASPI is calling on the Government to make “fast and fair compensation for women so badly affected by maladministration by the DWP, rather than making their financial situation worse”.
The charity Age UK has also expressed concerns over any changes to the free prescriptions service.
The charity said: “This is a bitter pill to swallow for millions in this age group, especially if their income is modest but takes them just above the benefit line.
“The Government says these people could buy a certificate to cut their costs, at £108 a year. Seen from this point of view the Government’s proposal is really a stealth tax, which could extract an extra £600+ from men and women in their run-up to retirement.
“Our biggest worry about this proposal is its potential impact on people’s health, especially if their money is tight.
“We are deeply concerned they may be reluctant to act on symptoms, seek medical advice or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long term, symptom relieving or even in some cases lifesaving medication.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.
“Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) asking for comment.