Government confirms whether prescription prices will rise next month and who will have to pay for them

Prescription fees will remain the same next month, although plans are underway to charge more people for their drugs.

Last April the price of a prescription rose by 20p to £9.35, and there were fears the cost of drugs at the pharmacy could rise again this year. But the government’s health minister, Edward Argar, confirmed there were no plans to raise – or lower – prescription prices on the table.

This is good news for those who have to pay at the pharmacy counter, although there are proposals that would raise the age for free prescriptions to 66, in line with the increase in the retirement age of ‘State. Currently, anyone aged 60 and over can get their medication without having to pay.

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As many as 2.4 million Britons could lose their free prescriptions under plans to change the system. Two different proposals are being considered – one would mean the change would come into effect immediately for everyone so that people aged 60 to 65 would have to start paying for drugs, the other would mean that anyone in the 60-65 age bracket who are already free prescriptions would still be exempt from payment until they turn 66, so they would not suddenly face fees.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: ‘We are regularly contacted by older people asking what is happening with the changes, as they are so worried about having to pay for their prescriptions with little warning.

A petition to keep prescriptions free for the over 60s has been signed by over 46,000 people and the Department of Health and Social Care has responded to the petition with a full statement explaining its position.

The statement read: “At this time, no decision has yet been made regarding the consultation. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is carefully reviewing the results and an announcement setting out the government’s response and course of action. will be made in due course.

“The government is keen to underline its commitment to keeping the NHS sustainable while protecting the most vulnerable. Around 89% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge and extensive provisions are in place to help those who need it most.”

He continued: “An estimated 34% of 60-65 year olds would be exempt from prescription fees if the upper age limit for free prescriptions were raised in line with the state retirement age. Prescription fees generate revenue for the NHS of around £600million a year, which is spent on essential running costs of frontline services.

“Currently people are given free prescriptions when they reach the age of 60 in England. This has not changed since 1974 for women and 1995 for men. State pension age in England is currently 66 and is expected to increase further for both men and women at 68. In 2019/20, around 60% of people aged 60-65 were still economically active and potentially able to meet the cost of their prescriptions.

“As growing numbers of people are living longer, more and more people are asking for free prescriptions. It is predicted that by 2066 there will be a projected 8.6 million additional UK residents aged 65 and over. more, which will represent 26% of the total population.”

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