The government has confirmed the prescription charge upper age exemption will remain at 60, citing cost of living pressures as a key reason behind the decision.
The current prescription charge is £9.65 per item, and many people between 60 and State Pension Age have multiple conditions requiring regular medications. The Government had originally consulted on the possibility of aligning it to state pension age.
The decision follows a lengthy consultation process. The consultation received over 117,000 responses, the majority of which were opposed to a rise in the upper age exemption.
Some of the reasons given for opposing the change included cost of living pressures and the risk to health of people not taking prescribed medication correctly.
In England a broad range of NHS prescription charge exemptions are in place to help those with the greatest need. These measures include a variety of charge exemptions and eligibility depends upon:
• whether people are in receipt of certain qualifying benefits or tax credits
• their age
• if they get a war pension
• if they have a qualifying medical condition
The current exemptions mean that around 89% of NHS prescription items dispensed in the community in England are free of charge. In addition, people on a low income who do not qualify for an automatic exemption can seek help under the NHS Low Income Scheme.
For those who do not qualify for an exemption or the NHS Low Income Scheme, prepayment certificates (PPC) are available to help those who need frequent prescriptions. The annual PPC can be paid for through 10 instalments. This means they can have as many prescription items as they need for just over £2 per week.