Prescription charges not the answer
Supporters of the re- introduction of prescription charges would do well to read Hugh Mackenzie’s letter (4 October) but to reject his conclusions.
The system of charging had so many anomalies that the word “fairness” could hardly apply to it. The case for free prescriptions is not just an ideological one; it makes sense simply on practical grounds.
Means testing would aggravate what was once a complex system of exemptions.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont may argue that their cost north of the Border could pay for a large number of nurses. The fact that she could not specify how many is another indication of how badly she does her homework.
The potential for savings in the enormous health budgets throughout the United Kingdom is great.
This week I watched a serious BBC Panorama investigation into anomalies (perhaps even corruption) in the methods of charging people from overseas for health services.
Procurement policies should be constantly under review as should the well rehearsed arguments about the ratio of managerial to front-line staff.
There is potential for closer working between the health boards and local authorities.
I cannot see how the public would welcome any reintroduction of charges while the potential to eliminate profligacy and waste is still huge.
Labour has twice in my lifetime introduced free prescriptions and then reintroduced charges. It has to be said that this contrasts markedly with the gradual approach to their elimination adopted by the minority SNP government between 2007 and 2011.
Setting health priorities – like free prescriptions – and then backing them up with prudent financial management is something which should be applauded.
There is nothing wrong with “universality” so long as the quest for savings in the right areas goes on.
In response to Hugh M Mackenzie’s thoughtful contribution to the debate on prescription charges, may I point out that any charge for a prescription is effectively a tax on illness, which is contrary to the principle of healthcare being free at the point of delivery.
If we wish this principle to operate, then individual wealth is irrelevant, as all but the least wealthy will have already made their contribution through a properly regulated taxation system.
Any shortfall in finance for the provision of healthcare must, therefore, be made up by appropriate adjustments to rates of taxation.
David M Wilkie
I have just received a letter from the director of health, Lothian, inviting me to have a free flu injection from my local GP surgery.
I reckon that the individually addressed mailing, if sent to every Scottish pensioner, must have cost nearly half a million pounds.
While, unlike Ms Lamont, I am glad that the freebie is not means tested, since that could have involved even greater expense, I am nevertheless questioning the need for a letter at all.
Can there be a pensioner left in Scotland who did not know that effective jabs are freely available at this time of year?
Surely our director could have spent the money better on reducing the waiting list times brought to our attention by the letter from Dr Beswick (2 October).
Based on the continuing furore in the letters page of this newspaper about the claims and counter-claims relating to the sustainability of universal benefits, it seems that there is a hard core of voters who are simply shutting their eyes and ears to a self-evident truth.
No political party, irrespective of hue, can afford to keep doling out non-means- tested benefits. For any party to imply that it can is simply hyperbole and evasion of the sort one would expect in the long run-up to an issue as vital as the independence debate.
The SNP knows perfectly well it cannot afford it, but is afraid of losing votes if it tells the truth as Labour’s Johann Lamont has done.
Anyone thinking that voting SNP is going to guarantee that these benefits remain in place in their current form is simply deluded and will actively contribute to the destruction of the UK for no good reason.
At least the SNP’s Mike Russell has finally broken cover. Let’s see how many of his party colleagues follow suit.
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