The consultation states that the average retirement age is now 64-65 and aims to ensure those “who are economically active and potentially able to meet the cost of their prescriptions do so”.
Having a job, though, does not necessarily mean being economically “active” – particularly when people are choosing between the (rising) cost of their utility bills and paying for medicine to cope with a condition which may have already forced them to cut their working hours and income.
As the Prescription Charges Coalition – made up of organisations representing patient groups – says, the proposals could disproportionately affect those with degenerative health conditions, multiple conditions, those from diverse communities with lower life expectancies and those in areas where average pay is comparatively low.
Chairwoman Laura Cockram says it “will cause thousands of people living with long-term health conditions unnecessary difficulties with accessing their medication, increasing their risk of ill-health and potentially sending them to hospitals”.
Which, ultimately, she says, makes the proposal a false economy, costing the NHS more in the end. Increasing prescription charges may appear a simple solution, but there would be a bitter irony in those who are already suffering ill-health struggling more for the sake of short-term thinking.