PENSIONERS in Barnsley could soon be forced to choose between paying for their prescription or risking their life, after the government once again failed to answer on whether new charges will be brought in.

John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, believes the knock-on effect of the introduction of paid prescriptions for the demographic could increase hospital admissions.

He said that more than 28,000 60 to 65 year olds in Barnsley are still facing worry and uncertainty over the future of free prescriptions.

Currently, prescriptions are free for people aged over 60 in England, but the Department for Health and Social Care set up a consultation in 2021 on the idea to scrap free NHS prescriptions in England for those aged between 60 and 65.

If the proposals are agreed residents would face having to pay £9.35 per-item cost for medicines prescribed by their GP.

It follows a debate, attended by John, this week in Westminster on the government consultation on aligning the upper age exemption for NHS prescription charges with the State Pension age (SPA), which would render many people in their 60s ineligible.

The consultation closed in September 2021 and a response still hasn’t been provided by the government despite being due in December 2021.

At the debate on Monday the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Neil O’Brien MP, said: “I know that several members have asked me quite specific questions on the outcome of the consultation.

“I can only reiterate that we continue to consider long and hard the many responses we’ve received.

“We try to balance the cost of living pressures on the one hand with the need for increasing funding on the NHS on the others. And we will respond to the petition in due course.”

John has previously written to the Health Secretary outlining the concerns of over 600 people who signed his petition to get the government to drop the plans.

John said: “It’s been over two years since the government launched its consultation on removing free prescriptions for over 60s and we’ve been told, yet again, to wait for a response. It isn’t good enough.

“People have worked hard and paid into a system all their lives and rightly expect to receive free prescriptions when they reach 60.

“The government is planning to pull the rug from under pensioners feet and start charging for prescriptions at a time when they’re already feeling the burden of rising energy costs and shopping bills.

“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.

“No one should be forced to choose between paying for their prescription and risking their lives.”