MINISTERS have been urged to scrap a so-called ‘medicine tax’ plan - after an MP revealed the proposal will impact an estimated 30,000 over-60s in Barnsley.
Currently, prescriptions are free for people aged over 60 in England, but the Department for Health and Social Care set up a consultation last year on the idea to scrap free NHS prescriptions in England for those aged between 60 and 65.
John Healey - who represents Wentworth and Dearne - has called on Health Secretary Therese Coffey to drop plans to end free prescriptions, with over-60s facing having to pay £9.35 per item for medicines prescribed by their GP.
This, local leaders believe, will compound financial difficulties already faced by the town’s worst-off.
In the letter to Ms Coffey, John said: “I write to urge you to drop plans to end free prescriptions for people over 60, as this will be a new medicines tax at a time when millions are faced with the rising cost-of-living crisis.
“Worries about this extra cost concern hundreds of local residents in our constituency who have backed my campaign to get government to think again.
“The plan is driven by ministers wanting to deliver budget cuts, rather than better health or a fair NHS treatment.
“In England, the cost of a single prescription has already risen by 30 per cent since 2010 and I know that this is a burden on many people, especially those living with long-term conditions.”
Nationally, an estimated 2.4 million people would lose out on the right to free prescriptions.
John added: “As the crisis continues to worsen, the government must consider what more it can do to support people with these essential costs.
“The new medicine tax could lead to some people not taking medicines they are prescribed or even taking lower doses in an attempt to make medicines last longer.
“This could then have a knock-on effect of increased hospital admissions including A and E visits and GP appointments causing additional costs and adding extra strain to the NHS and social care services.
“No-one should be forced to choose between paying for their prescription and putting their health or even their life at risk.
“The worry that this additional cost could still come into force lays heavy on the minds of 60 to 65 year olds across the country.
“A response hasn’t yet been provided to the consultation despite this being due last December, as standard government practice is to publish the outcome of consultations within three months of the closing date.
“As the new Secretary of State for Health, a decision to drop these plans now would be widely welcome.”