Forum > Welfare Rights

Ending free prescriptions for people over 60

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Fiz:
April 1st was going to be when the age for free prescriptions was due to be raised from 60 to 65 to match "when most people retire" but it is widely reported in hundreds of newspapers, all but the broadsheets, that free prescriptions will be scrapped for all. So only pensioners receiving pension credit or being exempt due to a medical condition won't have to pay for their prescriptions.


I actually approve of this as many pensioners are very wealthy. And prepayment certificates are affordable for those on lower incomes. I just hope all the money gained by this, goes to the NHS.

Sunny Clouds:
I have three concerns about this sort of thing:-

1. I'm suspicious as to the cost of administering exemption schemes and applications for benefits that give rise to eligibility for exemption.  I note that just as withdrawing various other sources of support for disabled people prompted a spreading of the information that what was DLA was an alternative, e.g. where my local council day centre was run when central government funding to councils were slashed, people found the way to meet other people with mental health problems and have a meal meant hiring a taxi and going to a  pub.  Ah, but how to afford that?  Apply for DLA leading to a boom in applications from people already eligible but not claiming, giving the government an excuse to replace DLA with PIP.

2. Time-wise this increase in what health services you have to pay for will fit in very neatly with government privatisation of NHS, so even if I thought it was good for other reasons, I'd be unhappy because of further normalisation of paying for services.

3. There are many people who'd be entitled to pension credit but who don't know about it or don't know how to apply for it.  Based on people I've helped or referred to others for help, people who are in with a low likelihood of applying for benefits such as pension credit would include those with low IQ, low literacy, no internet connection (taking into account closure of libraries where formerly people could use the computers), homeless people (yes, where I live, as elsewhere, we have homeless in their sixties and even seventies) etc. 

4. In particular, I'm concerned about those I'd describe as 'mentally dysfunctional and unsupported' who can be difficult to persuade to take their pills, e.g. thiamine supplements for alcoholics to significantly reduce the risk of Korsakoff's dementia.

5. The more 'benefits' that are means-tested, the less support there is from those that don't get them for their availability for others.

6. I already object to people subject to Community Treatment Orders being obliged to take medication, and consider it a further insult when they are obliged to pay for medication they are only taking under threat of being sectioned if they don't.  That already applies to some people and would now apply to more.

7. This brings me full circle to a belief that medications should be free on the NHS.  If the government wants to cut the drugs bill, let it get tough with bigpharma over their prices.

Fiz:
The people in in your groups 3 and 4 are likely to be entitled to free prescriptions before they reach 60 unless they are in full time employment so will already be receiving them so that will continue for them. And people under a CTO have previously been detained under S3 of the MHA which entitles them to section 117 aftercare with CCG funding for anything that keeps them well which includes their medication.



Sunny Clouds:
Thanks for reminding me about s117 aftercare.

I'd forgotten, since no one bothered to tell me about s117 aftercare when I needed it years ago.

As for groups 3 and 4, I'm not talking about people that are entitled and claim, I'm talking about people that are entitled but can't manage to claim.  The more people that have to go through bureaucratic form-filling to claim a benefit in order to get other things, the fewer get them.  Two wrongs don't make a right, so having lots of people that already have to claim something else to get free scrips doesn't make it ok to increase the numbers.

That being said, over the years, I've given quite a few bottles of vitamins to local homeless people where I live (there are quite a few that camp out in the graveyards and car parks etc.) who can't get it together over that sort of thing, and I know there's an underground market in other basic medicines.  Yes, the stereotype is people trading in 'street drugs', but I've seen people passing on basic meds.

Where I live, there have been cuts to advice services, closure of libararies i.e. loss of access to computers with help to use them, cuts, cuts, cuts.

And if you're on benefits, mess up your paperwork or put a foot wrong and get sanctioned, you've just denied yourself a lot of basics. 

I suppose I'm just edgy because I've known so many people that have fallen through the net over the years.  In reality, what we need where I live in addition to foodbanks and other resources like places we can donate bedding and warm clothes, is a medicine & vitamin bank.  Then that would help those already struggling and adding more to their number would be less disastrous.

Sunny Clouds:
I suppose it's only a half-way step anyway.  I think it'll be ten years at most, and probably nearer five when we'll need private insurance with a very basic and inadequate state safety net.

I lost a friendship a couple of years back when an older friend took exception to official figures published, I think, in the context of taxation, putting pensions and other benefits such as sickness and unemployment benefits into the same category.

"But I paid for my pension!" My friend said.  "No, I said, state pensions are a ponzi scheme.  You paid for the previous generation's pensions and today's younger people are paying for yours.  Also, many people on benefits have either paid national insurance for years or been unable, through no fault of their own, to do so. 

(It didn't stop me offering, via a third party so she didn't know it had come from me, some practical help not long after.)

I feel the same way about imposing greater and greater limits on eligibility for things like free (at the point of need) healthcare, education, legal representation, disability care and support etc.

It's the same reason I increasingly come close to blowing my top over the 'two child rule' which limits which children our society deems entitled to food, heat, clothing, toiletries etc. based on the foresight, luck and judgement of their parents.  My question is what next - only the first two children get free education?  Only the first two children get free healthcare?

So I suppose that with views like mine, I wasn't going to be in favour of any steps, however small, towards reducing healthcare on the NHS free at the point of access.  I just wish I thought it would be more than an intermediate step towards a totally Americanised healthcare system.  Bankruptcy for an ambulance, here we come.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Time will tell.

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