Sickle Cell Society signs a joint open letter to save free prescriptions for 60-65 year olds.
The Sickle Cell Society has joined with 24 other health charities to write an open letter to urge the Government to rethink its proposal to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66.
The letter follows a new analysis by Age UK that shows that each year tens of thousands more people may require hospital treatment (1) if they ration their medication due to no longer being eligible for free prescriptions.
The proposal to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66 is estimated by the DHSC to save the NHS £198-£257m p.a. (a tiny fraction of the NHS £212.1bn budget) (2). However, this estimate does not take into account the extra costs to local health services from addressing the more complex issues that will arise for the patients who feel unable to afford their medication.
These patients are more likely to live in more deprived communities, with services that are more overstretched and under-resourced than in more affluent areas. The letter emphasizes that the proposal is likely to widen these health inequalities as there are no specific measures in place to direct the money saved by this proposal to less favoured localities.
For many older people who already struggle to meet basic living costs, this additional levy on poor health could prevent them from managing their health conditions, especially if they are on a modest income but still above the benefits line.
“The money the Government raises if it goes ahead with this proposal will be easily outweighed by the additional costs to the NHS if, as is predictable, some people fail to take their medication and become sicker, more quickly. Tens of thousands may require hospital treatment due to rationing what they take, so this really is a bad idea that will hit people who are poorly and on modest incomes hardest of all.
“Once we reach our early to mid-sixties many of us are advised by our doctors to take medicines that are proven to keep potentially serious health conditions safely under control. If the Government goes ahead with its proposal, it is clear that some people will be reluctant to act on symptoms or get a diagnosis, for fear they will be unable to afford long term, symptom relieving or even in some cases lifesaving medication. The Government should definitely think again.” –Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:
The Sickle Cell Society is dedicated to working to see an end to prescription charges for people living with sickle cell.
Check out our report ‘End the Blood Tax’ a report from the Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia All-Party Parliamentary Group (SCTAPPG) which investigates the impact prescription charges are having on people living with those conditions: www.sicklecellsociety.org/endthebloodtax/
You can also sign this petition ‘Add Sickle Cell to the Prescription Charge Exemption List’: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/588355
1, Source: Age UK analysis based on assumptions from the Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) document “Impact assessment: increasing the upper age exemption for prescription charges in line with the state pension age” and the Office for National Statistic (ONS) 2020 mid-year population estimates. The ONS estimate there are 3,767,959 million people aged 60 to 65 in the UK. The DHSC estimate that 66% of people aged 60 to 65 will not qualify for free prescriptions if the age at which free prescriptions is available is raised immediately from 60 to 66. The DHSC assume as their central scenario that 15% these people will not fully adhere to taking their prescribed medicine. This means that 354,376 people (3,767,959*66%*15%) will not fully adhere to taking their prescribed medicine if the age at which free prescriptions is available is raised immediately from 60 to 66. The DHSC document notes that a survey by Asthma UK found 13% of respondents who said that they were cutting back on their medicine due to the cost required hospital treatment as a result of skipping their medicine. Assuming this figure applies across the board, it will means that on a central scenario 46,069 people (354,376*13%) could require hospital treatment from having to cut back on taking prescribed medicines because of the cost increase from the age at which free prescriptions are available is raised immediately from 60 to 66.
2, The NHS £212.1bn budget includes approximately £60 billion of additional COVID spending.