Described as ‘taxing the sick’, protestors have objected to the proposal of removing free prescriptions for over 60s who are below retirement age.
According to the Liverpool Echo, the new proposals would see 2.4 million people who are below retirement age losing out on free NHS prescriptions.
They would be expected to start paying £9.35 per medicine – a move that has been described as ‘unacceptable’ by health professionals.
During a consultation over whether or not the benefit will be brought in line with the state pension age – with the age limit rising to 66 – the Department for Health said it expected up to 354,000 people would cut down on medication to save paying.
Thorrun Govind, a member 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 plans, if brought in, could save the NHS £257million a year, with the belief being that that people aged between 60 & 65 can be “economically active and more able to meet the cost.”
Campaigners said that those least able to start paying the prescription fees will suffer a “devastating” blow to their wellbeing. This has led to warnings that it could trigger a rise in hospital admissions, eventually costing the NHS more than the plans will save.
A coalition of 25 organisations, led by Age UK, yesterday wrote to UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid demanding the controversial prescriptions proposal is dropped as it would penalise the most vulnerable.
The letter explained their “deep shared concern” over the plans and the impact they would have.
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.
“We urge the Government to reconsider these proposals.”
Anyone aged 60 and over can currently get free NHS prescriptions in England- in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all prescriptions are free for everyone regardless of age.
Last month, Caroline Abrahams, charity director for Age UK, said: “This proposed policy is a kick in the teeth, both for poorly older people and the NHS.”
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