Over 60s could lose free NHS prescriptions but some people are exempt – are you?

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Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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Currently state pension age is 66 meaning millions of older Britons will have to wait years more before receiving this benefit. The Government announced the plans to lift the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to age 66, to bring them into line with the State Pension age.

Prescription charges usually increase on April 1, sparking fears that this will also be the date when the free prescriptions for over-60s could also come to an end.

A broad system of exemptions, including for those with some long-term medical conditions, means that around 89 percent of NHS prescription items are dispensed in the community free of charge, according to 2019 data from the Government.

But not all long-term conditions qualify.

Some people with certain medical conditions can get a valid medical exemption certificate.

Eligible individuals can ask their doctor for a FP92A form in order to apply for a NHS medical exemption certificate. The certificate comes in the form of a credit card-sized card and is valid for five years.

The NHS explains the certificates are issued if a person has:

  • Cancer, including the effects of cancer or the effects of current or previous cancer treatment A permanent fistula (for example, a laryngostomy, colostomy, ileostomy or some renal dialysis fistulas) requiring continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • A form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison’s disease) for which specific substitution therapy is essential Diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis Myxoedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
  • Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy A continuing physical disability that means a person cannot go out without the help of another person (temporary disabilities do not count, even if they last for several months).

The move to scrap free prescriptions for over-60s has come under fire from many organisations.

Prescription Charges Coalition chair Laura Cockram has warned of “the dire impact of the proposals on those living with health conditions”.

Age UK has called plans to end free NHS prescriptions for the over-60s in England a “bitter pill to swallow for millions”.

Britons are urged to check whether they could qualify for free prescriptions as many people could be eligible.

Who qualifies for free prescriptions?

  • Some Universal Credit claimants Applicants in receipt of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • People under 16 Anyone currently aged 60 or over
  • People aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education Pregnant mothers, or anyone who has had a baby in the previous 12 months and has a valid maternity exemption certificate
  • Those who are registered disabled An NHS inpatient
  • People in receipt of Income Support Anyone in receipt of income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Those in receipt of income-related Employment and Support Allowance Some people claiming child tax credits or working tax credits
  • Those in receipt of a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).

While people under state pension age usually have to pay for their NHS prescriptions, anyone can buy a PPC from the NHS website.

People in England could save £40 a year on average on their NHS prescriptions costs, while many could save hundreds.

That’s according to data from the NHS Business Service Authority which shows that in the 12 months leading up to April 2021 over a million people (1,063,648) paid for at least one prescription per month.

They could have invested in a Prepayment Certificate (PPC) for that year costing £106, saving £40 over 12 individual prescriptions at £9.15 each.

The savings really start to add up if someone relies on two prescriptions per month, in these circumstances an individual could save £113.60 a year.

Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis says a PPC could be a great way to save money, such as if people rely on more than one prescription per month.

Mr Lewis said: “My simple rule of thumb is if you get more than one prescription a month on average – these are the cheapest way.

“And someone getting, say, two prescriptions a month would save over £100 a year.”

NHS prescription charges could soon apply to over 60s in England if a Government proposal to make them pay for medication is given the go ahead.

If the plans get the green light it will mean tens of thousands of older people will have to fork out for these extra costs.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “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.”

People can use the NHS free prescription eligibility checker tool to check if they are entitled to free prescriptions.

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