Currently, prescriptions are free for people aged over 60 in England. Under plans outlined by Ministers, this would rise to 66. Organisations, including the Prescriptions Charges Coalition (PCC) and others, are raising concerns that this will have a detrimental impact on people on lower incomes and people with long-term conditions, with many people potentially missing out on vital medication due to cost.
As you may know, prescriptions are free for all patients living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, the cost of a single prescription has risen by 30% since 2010 to £9.35. I know that this is a burden on many people, especially those living with long-term conditions, who often must pay around £110 a year on medication, or even more if they do not opt into the NHS pre-payment discount scheme.
The PCC finds that many people are struggling to afford their prescriptions and some people are not collecting their medication because of the cost. Concerns have been raised that the Government’s proposal to align the upper age exemption for prescriptions with the State Pension Age will exacerbate this issue.
In fact, the Government’s own Impact Assessment finds that people on lower incomes will be most severely affected by the policy change, which could lead to people skipping medication and result in future health problems for the individual and a subsequent cost to the NHS.
I am very concerned by the way in which the Government launched its consultation on these proposed changes in July, shortly before Parliament went into summer recess. It means MPs have not had a proper chance to scrutinise or hold Ministers to account. Furthermore, the consultation seeking views on this policy closes on 2 September, before MPs return to the House of Commons.
At a time when the cost of living continues to rise, I believe the Government should be doing much more to help people with the cost of healthcare.