Government scraps plan to end free prescriptions for 60-65 year olds - reports

The Government had proposed raising the age for free prescriptions to 66  (PA Archive)
The Government had proposed raising the age for free prescriptions to 66 (PA Archive)

The Government has reportedly scrapped plans to end a scheme that sees 60 to 65-year-olds receive free prescriptions, following a backlash.

Proposals to increase the age that people become entitled to free prescriptions from 60 to 66 were branded a “thoughtless” false economy by a coalition of charities.

The idea was hatched in 2021 under Boris Johnson’s premiership, and the Government claimed it would save the NHS around £6bn a year.

But campaigners warned that short-term gains from making people pay for prescriptions for longer would actually cost the NHS more money in the longer term.

According to the i newspaper, the Government has now backed down over the plan.

When a consultation was launched into the plan last year, The Prescription Charges Coalition - an alliance of more than 20 organisations representing a number of patient groups - said the proposed change was a “false economy”.

It added that the proposals could disproportionately affect those with degenerative health conditions, multiple health conditions, those from diverse communities with lower life expectancies and those living in areas where average pay is lower than other regions.

Meanwhile charity Parkinson’s UK, which is part of the coalition, warned that the proportion of patients with the degenerative condition would rise from 14 per cent to 25 per cent under the proposed changes.

Raising the prescription exemption age to 66, rather than keeping it at 60, will cost the NHS an additional £8.5 million from avoidable hospital admissions from Parkinson’s patients alone, it said.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told the i: “The upper age exemption for prescriptions remains at 60 years old.

“We have taken steps to help people with the cost of NHS prescriptions. Almost 89 per cent of prescription items in England are already provided free of charge and pre-payment certificates can be used to cap costs at just over £2 a week for regular prescriptions.

“The consultation has concluded and its conclusions will be published in due course.”