2.4million people are set to lose free prescriptions under government plans and Age UK has warned Sajid Javid the policy change will ‘hit brilliant carers in their early and mid-sixties really hard’
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Almost a million unpaid carers aged 60 to 65 will bear the brunt if the Government takes away their free NHS prescriptions as planned, a charity has warned.
Age UK says 2.4 million people aged 60-65 will lose free prescriptions if the qualifying age is raised.
It says many are likely to go without vital medicines due to the cost.
It calculated that 860,000 people – one in four in the age group – is a carer for a loved one. But fewer than one in 10 receive any financial help through the Carer’s Allowance, the charity reports.
It said 56% of carers in this age group are not in paid employment and warns many are likely to forego medicines if forced to pay to get them.
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Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said of the Health Secretary: “Earlier this week Sajid Javid called on families to do more to help their loved ones, seemingly unaware that his own department is considering a policy change which… will hit many thousands of brilliant carers in their early and mid-sixties really hard.
“Mr Javid is new to the job so may not yet realise that a massive one in four of all 60 to 65-year-olds is a carer.”
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She said carers were “people who sacrifice so much and who save the country billions a year as a result”.
NHS prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not England.
Currently people in England receive free medication when they turn 60.
The state pension age has been gradually rising for both men and women, and is currently 66.
If the proposals in the Government’s consultation become law, those aged under 66 in England will need to begin paying in full for their NHS prescriptions, unless they qualify for certain exemptions.
The average current prescription charge is £9.35 per item.
This tariff has been increasing faster than inflation under the Tories.
One unpaid carer told Age UK: “My only source of income is Carer’s Allowance and I need free prescriptions.
“I won’t be able to afford my prescriptions if I have to pay for them, meaning my own health will deteriorate and I won’t be able to continue with my caring role. It feels discriminatory as the more medical conditions you have, the harder you’ll be hit.”
Ms Abrahams added: “The money the NHS saves from making more people buy their medication is almost certain to be outweighed by the costs of treating health conditions that worsen because some 60 to 65-year-olds adhere less rigorously to their prescribed treatment regime.”
The Department of Health said: “The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995, that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age. No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”
- Council Tax is set to go up by around £100 a year for the next three years to fund care homes, a thinktank warns.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said bills would need to rise by at least 3.6%.