‘Medicine or electric bill!’ Woman, 64, hits back at plans to raise free prescription age

Martin Lewis discusses prescription prepayment certificates

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Free NHS prescription changes may be on the horizon, as the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) are currently consulting on aligning the upper age exemption for prescription charges with the state pension age. If this change were to go ahead, many more people between the ages of 60 and 65 would need to meet prescription related charges – and the current charge is £9.35 per item. For one woman, this potential change is particularly concerning, and makes her anxious about what the future may hold.

Express.co.uk spoke to Cathie Cassidy, a 64-year-old retail manager from Bedfordshire, who expressed her growing worry about the potential for the free prescription age to be altered to align with the state pension age.

Cathie currently lives with osteoarthritis, a condition which has impacted her life for many years. She has needed several monthly prescriptions in order to manage her symptoms and pain so she can continue to work.

Although her condition is currently manageable, she has concerns about what would happen should she deteriorate before she retires. 

As a result, she is worried about the potential loss of free prescriptions for the over-60s should the eligibility age be altered.

Cathie said: “People’s ailments and illnesses obviously deteriorate as you get older, and many have to deal with conditions as they age.

“You’ve paid all your money in to National Insurance contributions, it would be nice to think that you are going to get supported.

“This is especially true at a time when there are millions of people out there who live alone. That is hard enough to deal with financially, and then you are paying out all of this money for prescriptions as well.

“You’re not earning any more money, but they say they are going to take this entitlement away as well.”

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If her condition were to deteriorate, Cathie is worried she would be forced to stay at home, no longer able to go about her day-to-day working life in retail.

She also fears she may need expensive carers to help with day-to-day tasks – yet another potential expense Cathie may have to take on in later life.

But she also expressed concern about the many other older people who would have to reckon with prescription costs if the change were to go ahead – and what this could mean for their circumstances.

Cathie continued: “It is going to come to the point where prescription prices will rise, it’s inevitable, and those will have to be dealt with.

“So people will be forced into making decisions between taking their medicines or paying their electric bill.

“I know, for some people, that will sound hysterical. But that is the sort of dilemma that is going to face older people if this goes ahead.”

Cathie is single, and has said finances can often be challenging without the addition of a second income. This could also be the case for those who have lost a partner. 

She added: “You chug along and you pay your bits and pieces, but then from almost out of the blue there is yet another charge that you have to deal with. It can be a lot to bear.”

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With a change to free prescriptions potentially looming in the near future, many over 60s will have to bear this cost in mind going forward.

But for Cathie, the move is a signal of the Government’s lack of regard for older individuals.

She concluded: “You think, what was the point? What was the point in all of this? Why did I spend all this time working all of these years, if it has got me absolutely nowhere? Nowhere at all. 

“You’ve worked all of your life, and you just expect to be supported in return, and that’s not a bad thing – is it? 

“That’s the feeling of being let-down and disappointed. It’s really sad.”

A Department of 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.”

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