Retirees who aren’t yet state pension age could lose free prescription

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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Currently, residents in England are entitled to free prescriptions once they reach the age of 60. However, the Government has launched a consultation into aligning the NHS support with the state pension age which could mean over 60s have to wait longer for the concession. As a result, many people are looking for ways to save money on their prescription charges.

Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

Under existing rules, people in England are able to claim this benefit once they turn 60 years of age.

In comparison, residents in Scotland and Wales can get free prescriptions on the NHS no matter what age they are.

The Government is exploring either raising the eligibility age for everyone or having a period of protection for over 60s which means they will be able to still claim the support.

Furthermore, under 16s and those between the ages of 16 and 18 in higher education can claim the benefit, as long as the latter group is in higher education.

Women who are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year can claim a maternity exemption certificate.

This is otherwise referred to as a MatX and is evidence that they are eligible for free prescriptions.

Those in receipt of a valid medical exemption certificate, referred to as a MedEX, can also claim this benefit.

Medical exemption certificates are awarded to those who have a specific health condition that meets the NHS’s qualifying criteria for additional support.

Furthermore, a medical exemption for free prescriptions can be given to those who have an existing physical disability that stops them from going out without help from another person.

How to save money on prescriptions

If they are not eligible for free prescriptions, one of the ways people can reduce the amount of cash they spend on medication is by purchasing a prepayment certificate (PPC).

Using a PPC, Britons can claim as many NHS prescriptions they need for a set price which is useful for people on repeat prescriptions.

A prepayment certificate currently costs £30.25 for a three month period or £108.10 for 12 months and can be bought online as they are digital certificates.

Registered pharmacies are able to see prepayment certificates online if an email address is given.

A PPC will begin from the date of their initial purchase but claimants can ask for a different start date if needed.

People pay for their certificates over phone or email by direct debit, bank card payment or in-person at their local pharmacy.

Outside of the PPC, Stuart Gale, the chief pharmacist of Oxford Online Pharmacy, shared how those with health conditions or illness can still save money even without free prescriptions.

Mr Gale explained: “The lesser-known NHS minor ailments scheme is also useful for over the counter (OTC) medicines on the NHS for minor health complaints such as colds, flu, eye complaints, eczema, stomach upsets – even head lice or the morning-after pill.

“There sometimes can be one prescription charge to pay but this usually costs less than a month’s supply of treatment – but if you or a child is already entitled to a free prescription this would apply if your pharmacy is part of the scheme.”

The expert noted that there are pharmaceutical alternatives to NHS prescribed medications which could be cheaper.

He added: “Always ask at the pharmacy counter if a prescription item can be bought more cheaply ‘over the counter’ e.g for summer hay fever sufferers, most hay fever treatments can usually be bought this way.”

“Some drugs can move from ‘prescription only’ to being allowed without a prescription. For example, Allevia (fexofenadine 120mg tablets) for hay fever or itchy, watery or red eyes, was prescription only, £9.35 per prescription, but now can be bought without for just £3.10.”

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