John Healey MP has written to the Health Secretary calling on him to drop plans to end free prescriptions for people over 60.
It follows a debate, attended by John, last week in Westminster on the Government consultation on aligning the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the State Pension age (SPA), which would render many people in their 60s ineligible for free prescriptions.
It’s been over two years since the Government launched its consultation and it was confirmed at the debate that over 60s would still have to wait for a response from ministers.
John wrote to the previous Health Secretary, Therese Coffey, last year calling for the plans to be scrapped.
In the letter, to current Health Secretary Steve Barclay MP, John says: “I write to urge you, as I did your predecessor, to drop plans to end free prescriptions for people over 60, as this will be a new medicines tax at a time when millions are faced with the rising cost of living crisis.
“Worries about this extra cost are concerning to hundreds of local residents in our constituency who continue to back and support my campaign to get Government to think again. The plan is driven by Ministers wanting to deliver budget cuts, rather than better health or a fair NHS treatment.
“During a recent Petitions Debate it was revealed that Ministers are still reviewing responses before setting out the next steps, which means the uncertainty about whether or not this new cost will be imposed on people over 60 years old has gone on for over two years.”
Currently, prescriptions are free for people aged over 60 in England, but the Department for Health and Social Care set up a consultation in 2021 on the idea to scrap free NHS prescriptions in England for those aged between 60 and 65.
If the proposals are agreed over 21,000 60-65 year olds in Rotherham and over 28,000 60-65 year olds in Barnsley would face having to pay £9.35 per-item cost for medicines prescribed by their GP.
John added: “People have worked hard and paid into a system all their lives and rightly look forward to receiving free prescriptions when they reach 60. The Government is planning to pull the rug from under these pensioners and start charging for prescriptions at a time when they’re already feeling the burden of rising energy costs and shopping bills.
“This new ‘medicine tax’ could lead to some people not taking medicines they are prescribed or even taking lower doses in an attempt to make medicines last longer. This could have a knock-on effect of increased hospital admissions including A&E visits and GP appointments causing additional costs and adding extra strain to already overburdened NHS and social care services.
“The worry that this additional cost could still come into force lays heavy on the minds of 60-65 year olds across the country. A response hasn’t yet been provided to the consultation despite this being due in December 2021, as standard government practice is to publish the outcome of consultations within three months of the closing date.
“A decision to drop these plans now would be widely welcome.”