With the changes proposed at age 60 for free prescriptions, now may be more than ever a good time to check out if there is another way to get prescriptions for free. A government consultation has discussed raising the age at which older people can access the NHS for free in England from 60 to 66 to align with the state pension age.
However, no decision has yet been made on the matter.
Currently, people over 60 do not have to pay for their prescriptions, but this could be raised to the statutory retirement age, which is currently 66.
People requiring medication in England must pay for their prescription unless they are exempt due to age, income or medical condition.
People can get a free prescription if they are:
- 60 years or older
- Under 16
- From 16 to 18 years old in full-time training
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People who have a certain qualifying medical condition must have a valid Medical Exemption Certificate (MedEx) in their name to be on the exemption list.
This includes those who:
- are pregnant or have had a baby within the past 12 months and hold a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate (MedEx)
- Have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption (MedEx)
- Have a continuing physical disability that prevents them from going out and have a valid medical exemption (MedEx)
It is possible to request a prescription waiver if the person asks their doctor for an FP92A form to begin the process of receiving a certificate.
The following medical conditions included in the prescription exemption list are:
- Cancer, including the effects of cancer or the effects of current or previous cancer treatment
- A permanent fistula that requires a regular surgical dressing or device
- A form of hypoadrenalism that makes specific substitution therapy essential
- Diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
- Diabetes mellitus, except when treated with diet alone
- Myasthenia gravis
- Myxedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
- Epilepsy requiring ongoing anticonvulsant therapy
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Other exemptions include:
- An NHS hospital patient
- Receiving income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit guarantee credit or universal credit meeting the criteria
- Partners with a person receiving income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit guarantee credit or a universal credit that meets the criteria
People can find out if they are eligible for free NHS prescriptions or any help with other NHS costs by using the NHS Eligibility Checker via the health service’s website.
Age UK and other organizations have criticized the government’s proposal to raise the age of eligibility for free prescriptions.
Specifically, experts believe it will hurt people aged over 60 during a financially vulnerable time and put more strain on the NHS.
Dr Eva Kalmus, co-chair of the British Geriatrics Society’s GeriGPs group, explained: ‘People between the ages of 60 and 65 are often prescribed medication for long-term conditions that they will take for many years.
“Introducing prescription fees for this group is likely to result in some of this age group not taking their medication and result in minimal savings to the NHS.
“It may even cost the NHS more in the long run if there are complications or disease progression that drugs could have prevented.”
Currently, prescriptions in England cost £9.35, but there are money-saving options for those who need regular medication.
A 12 month prescription prepaid certificate is for those needing more than 11 items a year and costs £108.10.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk: ‘Around 90 per cent of community prescription items in England are free, and people don’t pay if they have 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 re-establishing the link between this and the statutory retirement age. We are carefully reviewing the responses and will respond in due course. Extensive arrangements are already in place to help people pay for NHS prescriptions.