Last reviewed 18 January 2022

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned of the impact of the cost of living crisis as ministers consider raising the upper age limit for prescription charges in England from 60 to 66.

Pharmacists said the Government’s proposals are “hard to understand” at a time when bills and the cost of living are soaring. RPS English Pharmacy Board Chair Thorrun Govind said: “This is in a year with an unprecedented pandemic and people are being hit right now with energy bills. It’s going to make health inequalities worse at a time when people are already feeling the pinch.”

The Government is currently considering responses to the consultation on raising the upper age exemption for prescription charges in England from 60 to 66, in line with the state pension age.

The RPS is a member of the Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of more than 50 bodies calling for patients with long-term conditions to be exempted from prescription charges. The Coalition said raising the upper age exemption in England from 60 to 66 would be a “disaster for tens of thousands of people who may face a new barrier to accessing their vital medicines”.

Age UK was one of the signatories on a letter sent to the Government in September 2021, also signed by the RPS and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), that warned the proposals would be likely to “have a lasting adverse impact on the 52% of 60–64-year-olds with one or more long term conditions”.

According to Age UK, without any protections for people already getting free prescriptions, this could affect up to 2.4 million people. Age UK Charity Director Caroline Abrahams commented: “We are regularly contacted by older people asking what is happening with the changes as they are so worried about having to pay for their prescriptions with little warning.”

She added: “Not only is this idea likely to be extremely unpopular with over 60s up and down the land, it could well be self-defeating for the Treasury too if it leads to higher treatment costs for the NHS.”

Age UK’s report, Behind the Headlines, explains why older people are anxious and concerned about the plans to make them pay for their prescriptions.

The Government’s consultation, Aligning the Upper Age for NHS Prescription Charge Exemptions with the State Pension Age, closed on 2 September 2021.

The Department of Health and Social Care said its “position is that responses are being considered carefully and we’ll respond in due course”.

All prescriptions are free in Wales and Scotland.