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NHS prescription charges: Looming price rises for over-60s are 'concerning'

The government is continuing its consultation of aligning prescription charge exemptions with the state pension age of 66.

BATH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  A chemist sign is displayed outside a independent chemist shop on February 12, 2016 in Bath, England. One in four high street pharmacies could close as the Government cuts £170 million from the prescription handling fees paid to them.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Concerns have been raised over plans to charge some over-60s for NHS prescriptions. (Getty)

Concerns have been raised by MPs over plans to charge some over-60s for NHS prescriptions.

The government is continuing its consultation of aligning the upper age for prescription charge exemptions with the state pension age of 66 which would mean some people in their 60s being forced to pay.

The protect free NHS prescriptions for over-60s petition was debated on Monday, with shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne warning the changes would impact many who were currently struggling with the cost of living crisis.

The government has yet to make a decision on whether to move forward with the proposals.

Read more: Outrage after free prescriptions for over 60s might be axed over state pension change

Many people in their 60s may have to pay for prescriptions. (Getty)
Many people in their 60s may have to pay for prescriptions. (Getty)

Gwynne said over-60s would be worried about the plans and criticised the government for its delay in deciding if they would go ahead after closing the consultation in September 2021.

He told the House of Commons: “As we have heard, we are in the middle of a cost of living crisis, when many people face unsustainable rises in their energy and household bills.

“It is little surprise that the government’s decision to consult on scrapping free NHS prescriptions for the over-60s will be of profound concern to many people already struggling to make ends meet.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 'Deeply concerning' rise in prescriptions left uncollected

“That anxiety has been compounded by characteristic delay from the Department of Health and Social Care.”

Gwynne added the government’s own impact assessment had raised several potential problems with the proposals, including people on lower incomes struggling to buy prescriptions and future health problems for individuals and a subsequent cost to the NHS.

He said half of the pharmacies surveyed had already seen a rise in people not collecting their prescriptions at all, which was “incredibly concerning”.

A close-up image of a paper bag containing prescribed medical items.
The government has yet to make a decision on whether to move forward with the proposals. (Getty)

Independent MP Margaret Ferrier added: "As we have heard, pharmacies have reported a significant increase in the number of patients not collecting their prescriptions because they simply cannot afford them.

“Does the honourable member agree that that is worrying for all age groups, but especially for over-60s, who are more prone to sickness and to requiring that medical aid?”

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for health and social care Neil O’Brien said he recognised the issue was important to people, but added that no decision had been made yet to bring the proposals forward.

He said: “Honourable members will be aware that the petition calls on the government to protect free NHS prescriptions for all over-60s.

“We value our older members of society, and we recognise their social care and health needs."

The petition, which had more than 46,000 signatures, said: “Over-60s are generally more susceptible to health issues, and after pension age, have less money available to pay large sums for repeat prescriptions.”