The free NHS prescription age has been set at 60 for over 25 years, however, Government proposals have suggested aligning this entitlement with state pension age. This could mean many more people are forced to meet a prescription charge that they otherwise would not have been required to. The charge in England is not optional for those eligible, and there is actually an enforcement in place to ensure the sum is met.
Other than age, people could be exempt from the charge if they are in receipt of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) paid on its own, or Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit with Savings Credit)
- Certain Tax Credits (read the NHS Tax Credit Exemption certificate information)
- Universal Credit – but only if earnings in the last assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less if a person gets an element for a child or has limited capability for work
Those with an NHS medical exemption certificate, NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate, HC2 certificate or war pension exemption certificate could also get a free prescription.
However, if none of these circumstances apply, then the prescription charge must be met or individuals will face the consequences.
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If a person is sent a Penalty Charge Notice, they will be asked to pay the original NHS prescription charge, alongside an additional charge.
The penalty charge is five times the original amount owed, up to a maximum of £100, but this could quickly rack up if action is not taken, and so people should pay attention.
This is because once a Penalty Charge Notice has been issued, if no payment has been made within 28 days, a surcharge may be added.
The NHS website explains the health service loses “significant funds” each year due to people claiming free prescriptions or dental treatments they were not entitled to.
However, the single charge for a prescription in England currently stands at £9.35 per prescription item.
In England, however, out of over one billion prescription items which were dispensed in 2019, close to 90 percent were issued free of charge.
Two thirds of all items were considered exempt because the patient was recorded as aged 60 or over.
Those interested in responding to the Government’s consultation were required to do so by 11.45pm on September 2, 2021.
Previously, a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions.
“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and 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.”