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Getting rid of free prescriptions for over 60s would be akin to “taxing the sick” protestors have warned.

A consultation into whether free prescriptions should be brought into line with the state pension age is underway.

Under the new proposals, 2.4million people who are below retirement age could lose their free NHS prescriptions if the limit is raised to 66.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is consulting on the age limit rise which the Department for Health and Social Care says will save the NHS £257million a year.

The consultation claims that people aged between 60 and 65 can be "economically active and more able to meet the cost".

But, doctors say that it’s a false economy, reports the Mirror.

Activists argue that those least able to pay £9.35 per item will suffer a “devastating” impact on their wellbeing.

And, they worry that it would trigger a rise in hospital admissions.

Thorrun Govind, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "Many more people will be affected by this tax on the sick at exactly the time at which they may be needing more medicines.

"It is unacceptable to raise the cost of prescriptions in the current economic situation when many have been disadvantaged. Such proposals will only further drive the health inequalities that have been highlighted by Covid-19."

The proposal comes after millions of pensioners lost access to free TV licences last year meaning most now have to pay £159 a year to watch TV.

And, can zoloft make you tired there are fears that the Treasury will end the triple lock – this guarantees that the state pension rises by a minimum of 2.5% the rate of inflation or average earnings growth (whichever is largest).

The elderly could miss out on up to £800 a year if this changes.

A coalition of 25 organisations, led by Age UK, yesterday wrote to the Health Secretary demanding the controversial prescriptions proposal is dropped as it would penalise the most vulnerable.

It was signed by leading charities including Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and by the influential Royal College of General Practitioners.

The protest detailed a “deep shared concern” that scrapping the free NHS prescriptions would intensify existing health inequalities and have a huge impact on older people.

Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "We have always been supportive of any safe and sensible measures to reduce medication costs for patients and ensure equitable access.

"We urge the Government to reconsider these proposals."

People aged 60 and over currently get free NHS prescriptions in England – in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland prescriptions are free regardless of age or means.

The charge – which rises every April – is £9.35 per item in England. A quarterly prescription prepayment certificate is £30.25 while 12 months is £108.10.

The Department for Health said it expects up to 354,000 will cut down on medication to save paying – and campaigners fear 46,000 will then need hospital care if the proposal gets the green light.

Parkinson's UK said that ending free prescriptions for 60 to 65s would cost the NHS an extra £8.5million in avoidable admissions of patients with the degenerative condition.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "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.

"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-60s, many of us are advised by our doctors to take medicines that are proven to keep potentially serious health conditions safely under control.

"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."

Meanwhile, a health department spokesperson has previously said that the age people get free prescriptions in England had not changed since 1974 for women and 1995 for men.

He added: “We continue to protect the most vulnerable and support is available for those on a low income and on certain benefits.”

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