Closed petition Protect free NHS prescriptions for over 60s

Continue to give free NHS prescriptions to over 60s. The Government is consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the State Pension age (SPA), which would render many people in their 60s ineligible.

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Over 60s are generally more susceptible to health issues, and after pension age, have less money available to pay large sums for repeated prescriptions.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

46,495 signatures

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 January 2022

89% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge. People who pay for their prescription charges and need many prescription items can save money with a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).

Read the response in full

This Government values our older society and recognises their health, social care and economic needs. This petition, which currently stands at 43,077, and the consultation to align the upper exemption age from prescription charges with the state pension age that received over 117,000 responses, are testament to the strength of feeling within our community and we are encouraged to see so many people expressing their views.

At this time, no decision has yet been taken on the consultation. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is considering the results carefully and an announcement setting out the Government’s response and course of action will be made in due course.

The Government would like to stress its commitment to keeping the NHS sustainable whilst protecting the most vulnerable. Approximately 89% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge, and extensive arrangements are in place to help those most in need. Eligibility for these exemptions depends on the person’s age, whether they are in receipt of a war pension or certain benefits or tax credits, whether they are pregnant or have recently given birth, whether they are in qualifying full-time education, or have a qualifying medical condition. Partners and dependents of the person receiving certain benefits are entitled to free prescriptions too. It is estimated that 34% of those in the age range 60-65 would be exempt from prescription charges if the upper age limit for free prescriptions was raised in line with the state pension age.

People who may not be exempt, but who are on a low income can seek help under the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). This Scheme provides help with health costs on an income-related basis. Those who are exempt from charge for income-related reasons would retain their exemption under the proposals.

For people who have to pay NHS prescription charges and need many prescription items, they can save money with a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). These can be purchased for either 3 or 12 months and give access to all the NHS prescriptions needed during the period of their validity. A 12-month PPC will save money if more than 11 prescription items are needed in a year, can be paid for in 10 monthly instalments and costs a little over £2 per week when spread over a year.

Prescription charges generate revenue for the NHS of approximately £600m per year, which goes towards essential running costs for frontline services. Currently, people receive free prescriptions when they turn 60 in England. This has not changed since 1974 for women, and 1995 for men. The state pension age in England is currently 66 and is planned to increase further for men and women to 68 in future years. In 2019/20, around 60% of people in the 60-65 age group were still economically active and potentially able to meet the cost of their prescriptions. As increasing numbers of people live longer, there are more people claiming free prescriptions. It is projected that by 2066, there will be a further 8.6 million projected UK residents aged 65 years and over, which will be 26% of the total population.

Increasing the upper age limit for free prescriptions for people, who previously received free prescriptions based purely on their age rather than their inability to pay, would result in a transfer of resources from people to the NHS. These funds could then be spent on improving services for patients, resulting in health benefits for wider society. However, the Government has not yet taken a decision and continues to weigh up the arguments.

Department of Health and Social Care