SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Rose-tinted views of the NHS will not be helpful in the independence debate, writes Lyndsay Buckland
It was only a matter of time before the poor old NHS got dragged into the Scottish independence debate.
After these long and draining months, it was obvious that the emotive subject of healthcare would be called into action in the closing weeks.
So we’ve had politicians from all sides talking about our beloved NHS and how the rights of healthcare free at the point of need should be protected.
Alex Salmond even proposed the inclusion of a right to free healthcare in the written constitution of an independent Scotland.
You may not be charged every time you turn up in A&E with a cut finger, or when you’re demanding antibiotics from your GP to treat your cold. We’re not even charged for prescriptions any more after the SNP stepped in on that.
But what everyone seems to be ignoring is the fact that healthcare is not free.
Obviously we pay through taxation, but there are many other ways the NHS gets us to pay again for services which should arguably be free.
What about those dental bills which, even if you’re seen by an NHS dentist, can run into hundreds of pounds?
And yes, there may be free eye tests, but if you need glasses then mostly you have to pay
It seems the NHS would rather have us bumping into things than cough up.
At the most serious end, just hope you’re not unlucky enough to need an expensive, life-extending drug which the NHS won’t fund, setting you back tens of thousands of pounds a month, assuming you’ve got that lying around.
There are other costs where there is more doubt over whether the NHS should pick up the tab – travel vaccinations for example.
If you can afford to fly off to an exotic location you can probably afford to pay for your yellow fever jabs.
Last week I discovered another paid-for NHS service; that is when you’re pregnant, planning to go on a flight and need a letter from your GP to say it’s probably OK or the airline won’t let you on.
When I enquired about the cost, I was told it would be between £10 and £50 – I’m not sure why the differential, possibly if you’ve got a long name the cost increases, or maybe there’s a choice to have it printed on plain A4 or Basildon Bond. I’ll be checking for the watermark.
Obviously this cannot be classed as an essential NHS service, but it is one you have no choice but to ask the NHS to help with.
Either pay up or don’t take that flight to the exotic climes of Gatwick Airport to visit your in-laws.
So before we get all dewy-eyed about the “free” NHS, let’s remember the things they do make us pay for.