‘Concerns’ mount for over 60s free NHS prescriptions during MP debate

The petition to protect free NHS prescriptions for those over 60 was taken to parliament for MPs to debate today (Monday, March 6). This comes as the Government continues its consultation to align the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the state pension age of 66, which would render many people in their 60s ineligible.

The petition, which closed in February 2022, argues: “Over 60s are generally more susceptible to health issues, and after pension age, have less money available to pay large sums for repeat prescriptions.”

In the Government’s initial response to the petition, it said 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.

It said the funds could then be spent on improving patient services, resulting in “health benefits for the wider society”.

However, the Government noted that at that time (January 2022) it had not yet taken a decision and would continue to weigh up the arguments.

READ MORE: State pension age could be increased ‘sooner than planned’

Earlier today, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, a member of the Petitions Committee, opened the debate with a case study on Peter, who launched the petition, after concerns about the impact increasing the upper-age limit would have not just on him but also his local community, who are struggling with costs.

In response, a minister told Westminster Hall that the decision is still being deliberated while the Government attempts to strike a balance between supporting people with the cost of living pressures while increasing funding for the NHS.

The Government minister said: “I am pleased to be able to respond again today having listened to the very important and interesting contributions from many members during this debate.

“The context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the high energy prices, inflation, and cost of living pressures that it has unleashed.”

He said: “As increasing numbers of people live longer and work longer, there are more people claiming free prescriptions on the basis of their age. By 2066, there will be a further 8.6 million projected UK residents aged 65 and over.”

Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish responded: “I’m a little bit concerned about the tone of what he’s communicating to the house, in that he seems to be accepting there will be a change on the prescription.”

The minister responded: “Earlier in my speech, I said no decision has been made and I can reiterate that we’ve continued to consider long and hard.

“We’re trying to balance the cost of living pressures on the one hand, and increasing funding for the NHS on the other. We will respond to the petition in due course.”

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