Who gets free prescriptions? Rules for over-60s explained and why it could change

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Currently, those over the age of 60 and around 15 other groups in England don’t have to pay for their NHS prescriptions. A proposal was launched last year by the Government which floated the idea to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to 66 years to align with the state pension age. The Government said that people who are working can be “economically active and more able to meet the cost of their prescriptions”.

The move would force Britons ages 60 to 65 years to pay the £9.35 per item charge for their medication. 

The idea has received strong opposition from charities and the public, with some calling the move “ridiculous”, while others said older Britons were being “cheated” out of the entitlement.

One Twitter user @mccartaigh1953 said: “The elderly have paid in longer, are most likely to need multiple prescriptions and are more likely to be on the lowest incomes, so do you think they might decide to not go to the doctor’s if they fear paying for all their drugs?”

“If they don’t take regular care they’ll present for care at a more critical point in their ill-health, need more intensive care, and cost the No Hope Service far more in the long-run.”

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Another issue highlighted by those in opposition to the plan was the state pension age is set to rise to 67 by 2028. 

This means those over 60 will have to wait even longer wait for a benefit they were otherwise entitled to.

The consultation closed in September 2021 and stated “the outcome of the consultation will usually be published within three months of the consultation closing date.”

However, the Goverment has not made a decision on the matter as of yet and has not commented on when a decision will likely be made. 

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “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 between this and the state pension age. We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course. Extensive arrangements are already in place to help people afford NHS prescriptions.”

People who live in Scotland and Wales pay no prescription charges at all, no matter what age they are. 

As well as those over 60 years, young people living in England are able to qualify if they are under 16 years or age or are in higher education and between the ages of 16 and 18.

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Health conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer are able to get the exemption certificate as well as those who have a continuing physical disability which requires help from another person. 

People who are an NHS inpatients and those who hold a valid war pension exemption certificate can also be eligible to get their prescriptions for free. 

People can find out if they are eligible for free NHS prescriptions or help with other NHS costs through the NHS eligibility checker.

This can be found on the NHS website.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) people are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if the annual family income used to work out tax credits is £15,276 or less.

They will also be eligible if they claim Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit paid together, or Working Tax Credit including a disability element.

Partners of those who claim one of these benefits can also access the freebie. 

Some Universal Credit claimants also qualify for this help towards prescription costs.

This is typically for applicants who earn £435 or less, or £935 if they have responsibility for a child.



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