POLL: Should Boris freeze NHS prescription cost in face of 40% hike?

A new report by NHS healthcare provider Chemist4U estimates that prescriptions will rise to £13 per item by 2035, up £3.65 from the current price of £9.35 per item. With household bills skyrocketing, there are concerns amongst campaigners that rising prescription costs will force people to stop taking medication in order to spend the money on heating and electricity.

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Around 10,000 Britons die every year because they live in a cold home, according to National Energy Action, and with gas prices soaring by 250 percent since January, this figure is unlikely to decrease.

To save money on NHS prescriptions people can buy a “Prescription Pre-payment Certificate” (PPC), which costs £108.10 a year, but this too is expected to rise in cost.

However, the PPC requires either up-front payment or setting up a direct debit, and many older people aren’t aware that it exists or find setting it up too fiddly.

As it stands, anyone in England aged 60 and over gets their prescription medicine for free, but the Government is planning to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England to 66, in line with the state pension.

The move has been met with anger from people in their 60s – particularly as prescriptions in Scotland and Wales are free for all citizens.

Age UK, which has launched a new “Save Free Prescriptions” campaign in response to the proposal, said 2.4 million people aged 60-65 could have to start paying for their prescriptions.

The move would bring in an extra £300million for the NHS by 2026/27.

However, a report by the Department of Health estimates that unused medicines cost the NHS around £300 million every year.

An estimated £110 million of medicines are returned to pharmacies, £90 million worth of unused medicines are stored in homes, and £50 million worth of medicines are disposed of by Care Homes.

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Age UK said the Government’s decision to raise the qualifying age for prescriptions is a “short-shifted policy”, and is likely to exacerbate England’s health inequalities and pile extra pressure on the NHS.

This is due to concerns that older people will stop taking their medication because of the cost and as a result become sicker.

Age UK said free prescriptions protect the most vulnerable people in society who are already struggling to meet the £9 per item cost until they are 60-years-old.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “This policy proposal seems all the more unfair because prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland and Wales.

“There’s a strong public health case for heading in that direction here in England too.”

READ MORE: Free NHS prescription changes coming in the New Year

Ms Abrahams continued: “Instead, our government wants to do the opposite: make many more people pay for their medicines, and at an age when it’s all the more important they take them to control conditions that, left untreated, can lead to really serious medical problems – piling more pressure onto the NHS.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions.

“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age.”

They continued: “No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”

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