The government is thinking about changing how people aged 60 and over pay for their prescriptions.

So, it is consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the State Pension age (SPA). In 2019, around £600 million was generated in revenue from prescription charges for frontline NHS services. The upper age exemption for prescription charges was introduced in 1968 to be in line with women’s State Pension Age (SPA), which was 60 at the time. In the decades since, there have been increases to the SPA, but the upper age exemption for prescription charges has remained the same.

The SPA increased from 65 to 66 between 2019 and 2020, and legislation is in place to increase this to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and to 68 between 2044 and 2046. Blanket exemptions for people aged 60 and over are no longer appropriate.

The average retirement age is now 64 for women, and 65 for men, and has been increasing steadily over the last two decades. In 2019/20, around 60% of people in the 60-65 age group were still economically active and potentially able to meet the cost of their prescriptions.

This consultation is seeking views from the public and healthcare professionals on options for change including building in a period of protection so those aged between 60 to 65 can continue to benefit from free prescriptions if the upper age exemption rises. Individuals aged 60-65 who don’t qualify for another exemption could face an average annual cost of £50 to £100 depending on their medicine use and method of payment. In the central scenario, total annual costs would be £257m per year on average over 10 years.

This includes the cost to patients of buying prescriptions, the loss of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) as a result of potential deterrent effects of prescription charges and the administrative costs of this policy change. The likely deterrent cost is relatively small and robust to a range of inputs.

The monetised discounted total cost over the ten-year period is £2.23bn. The Government want to make sure they listen to people’s views; they would like you to tell them what you think about their ideas.

This consultation close at 11.45 pm on 2 September 2021.

For further information and to take part, please visit: @ent/consultations/changes-to-giving-free-prescriptions-to-people-aged-60-and-over-easy-read