NHS explain what a Prescription Prepayment Certificate is
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That would mean 2.4 million people losing decades-old access to free help when many need it most. The proposal – which the Department for Health and Social Care claims will save the NHS £257million a year – has been labelled a false economy. Activists said those least able to start paying £9.35 per item will suffer a “devastating” blow to their wellbeing which will only increase the burden on health services.
Thorrun Govind, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “Many more people will be affected by this tax on the sick at exactly the time at which they may be needing more medicines.
“It is unacceptable to raise the cost of prescriptions in the current economic situation when many have been disadvantaged. Such proposals will only further drive the health inequalities that have been highlighted by Covid-19.”
The proposal is the latest blow to older people – many pensioners now have to find £159 for a TV licence after 20 years of it being free, despite promises they would not have to pay.
There are also fears the Treasury will end the triple lock, cheap januvia online no prescription which guarantees the state pension rises by a minimum of 2.5 percent, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is the largest.
The 18-month Covid crisis which has led to unprecedented taxpayer-funded spending and Government borrowing has also highlighted the scandal of a social care system that is unfit for purpose. The conundrum facing PM Boris Johnson – who on entering No 10 on July 24, 2019, said “We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all” – is how he pays for it.
A coalition of 25 organisations, led by Age UK, yesterday wrote to the Health Secretary demanding the controversial prescriptions proposal is dropped as it would penalise the most vulnerable.
It was signed by leading charities including Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and by the influential Royal College of General Practitioners.
The protest laid bare their “deep shared concern” that scrapping free prescriptions for those aged 60 to 65 was likely to intensify existing health inequalities and have a catastrophic impact on older people.
Campaigners argued that with many already struggling to meet living costs, an additional levy may cause big problems especially for over-60s on modest incomes that rule them out of receiving benefits.
Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “We have always been supportive of any safe and sensible measures to reduce medication costs for patients and ensure equitable access.
“Introducing an additional cost for over-60s managing long-term health conditions will, albeit un-intentionally, disproportionately affect a large group of patients who are on low incomes but just above the threshold for financial help.
“Many patients are already waiting longer for treatment or will have seen their health deteriorate as a result of the challenges of the past 18 months. This change will discourage patients who are financially less well-off from managing their health and could mean they present to general practice when their problems are far worse.”
Prof Marshall added: “We urge the Government to reconsider these proposals.” The coalition warned that the proposals for short-term savings will end up costing the NHS more money.
People aged 60 and over currently get free NHS prescriptions in England – in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland prescriptions are free regardless of age or means.
The charge in England is £9.35 per item. A quarterly prescription prepayment certificate is £30.25 while 12 months is £108.10.
Charges usually rise every April 1. Other costs include £30.70 for a surgical bra, £46.30 for an abdominal or spinal support and £293.20 for a full bespoke human hair wig.
Health officials are consulting on whether prescriptions should be payable up to the state pension age of 66. The consultation, which closes today, says people aged between 60 and 65 can be “economically active and more able to meet the cost”.
But protesters claim ending the free medications scheme could disproportionately affect those with degenerative health conditions and multiple health problems. The Office for National Statistics estimates more than 2.4 million people would lose free prescriptions.
The Department for Health expects up to 354,000 will cut down on medication to save paying – and campaigners fear 46,000 will then need hospital care.
Parkinson’s UK, a research and support charity, said ending free prescriptions for 60 to 65s would cost the NHS an extra £8.5million in avoidable admissions of patients with the degenerative condition.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “The money the Government raises if it goes ahead with this proposal will be easily outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS if, as is predictable, some people fail to take their medication and become sicker, more quickly.
“This really is a bad idea that will hit people who are poorly and on modest incomes hardest of all.
“Once we reach our early to mid-60s, many of us are advised by our doctors to take medicines that are proven to keep potentially serious health conditions safely under control. Some people will be reluctant to act on symptoms or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long-term, symptom-relieving or even in some cases lifesaving medication.
“The Government should definitely think again.”
Dr Jennifer Burns, president of the British Geriatrics Society said: “We are dismayed to hear the Government is considering increasing the age at which people in England become eligible for free prescriptions.
“It is essential older people with multiple long-term conditions are able to access the medications they need to effectively manage their health.”
The Government claims 90 percent of items dispensed on prescription are given free since children, adults on low incomes and cancer patients are exempt from paying charges.
Prescriptions were free when the NHS began in 1948, but charges were introduced in the 1952 to plug gaps in funding.
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