Bitter pill

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Has Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson taken a serious look at the history and economics of prescription charges (your report, 17 March)?

It is hard to understand why she thinks their re-introduction will help revive her party’s fortunes north of the Border. No sooner were the words out of her mouth than spokesmen were anxious to say that the poor, the elderly, the pregnant, the young, those suffering from long-term conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis would not be charged.

Therein, of course, lies the first difficulty with this policy. It would need a quite large, means-testing, administrative machine to make it work. Is it really worth the expense and the controversy to bring charges back? As long ago as the 1960s, a Labour government found out that abolition and reintroduction created a bureaucratic nightmare.

Although charges have been in place for most of the post-war period, there is no evidence to suggest they prevented nursing and midwifery staffing problems.

The Holyrood government between 2007 and 2011 took a gradual approach to abolition and for two good reasons. The first relates to the general principle of free ­access at the point of use to health care.

The second concerns the issue of easing the impact on household incomes at a time when real wages and salaries were falling.

There can be no doubt the policy benefited many Conservative voters at a time when most families were feeling the pinch.

If Ms Davidson wants to curry electoral favour with them then surely she could choose a more favourable battleground than this.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

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