NHS free prescription age set to rise but 15 groups already do not have to pay

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State pension age is 'likely to increase' in the future says expert

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Free NHS prescriptions are an important entitlement for older people living in England, as otherwise, the charge is £9.35 per item. However, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is currently considering whether or not the upper age exemption for prescription charges should be matched with the state pension age. The consequences would mean potentially millions of people between the ages of 60 ad 65 may need to meet prescription charges they previously bypassed, with many frustrated about the potential alteration.

There are, however, a number of groups who can already get their prescriptions for free, and as such, Britons may wish to check if they fall into one.

Evidently, the first group at present is those over 60 – but the changes could mean this entitlement is somewhat under threat.

The next two groups are younger people, those under the age of 16 and those aged between 16 to 18, as long as they are in full-time education.

The fourth group are women who are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate.

Next are those individuals who are registered disabled, and are unable to go out or get help from another person. However, they must have a valid medical exemption certificate to get their prescriptions free.

Similarly, those who have a prescription for their accepted disability under the war pension exemption certificate will not have to pay, alongside Britons who are NHS inpatients.

Individuals with a specified medical condition who have a valid medical exemption certificate known as MedEx can get a free prescription, also.

The next set of people who can secure a free NHS prescription are those who are in receipt of certain benefits from the Government.

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These are:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit 
  • Universal Credit – if earnings during last assessment were £435 or less, or £935 or less if the benefit includes an element for a child or a person has limited capability for work

Another group eligible for free NHS prescriptions are those who have a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate. People will be able to get this if they receive Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.

In the same way, those who are in receipt of a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs – known as HC2 – will not have to pay.

If the proposals were to go ahead, then some over 60s may find they fit into one of the aforementioned groups. However, others may need to make payments for their prescriptions going forward.

To manage the cost of payments, the NHS recommends Britons look into the idea of a prescription prepayment certificate, commonly referred to as a PPC.

A PPC allows individuals to be able to get as many NHS prescriptions as they need for a set price. It is effectively a prescription “season ticket”.

Those who regularly pay prescription charges may benefit from a PPC as it could save them money.

A PPC costs £30.25 for three months, or £108.10 for 12 months. The quickest way to buy a PPC is to purchase it online. 

However, there are other ways to buy. Britons can visit a pharmacy which is registered to sell PPCs or via telephone – with the full details available on the NHS. 

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It covers all NHS prescriptions, including NHS dental prescriptions, no matter how many items a person needs. 

The NHS adds: “Remember to apply for a new PPC in plenty of time, otherwise you’ll have to pay full prescription charges if it expires.

“It’s important that you do not use your certificate after it expires. The NHSBSA checks that patients who claim for free NHS prescriptions are entitled to the exemption they have declared.”

Speaking previously to Express.co.uk a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The age people get free prescriptions in England has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men so we are consulting on aligning the upper age exemption from prescription charges with the state pension age.

“We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and those on certain benefits.  

“Almost 90 percent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 were free of charge, and there are other exemptions in place for certain medical conditions and expectant or new mothers.” 

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