Cancer fund cost

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Should charging for NHS prescriptions in Scotland be reintroduced to help fund ­special schemes like a Cancer Drugs Fund?

It would be difficult for anyone not to feel sympathy for the plight of Maureen Fleming, and her inability to access for free the drug Cetuximab here (your report, 17 May).

But it does not necessarily follow that charges should come back to help eliminate her awful dilemma. The advantages of this universal benefit still outweigh the disadvantages.

Even those who argue for charging people under 60 and not on welfare cannot agree on which area of health the money raised should be spent (more nurses, special funds, better equipment or whatever).

Before the abolition of charges, 50 per cent of people who visited a doctor came out of the surgery with a prescription. Of those, nearly 80 per cent were not charged for them either because of age or low income or benefits, or other special circumstances.

The cost of abolition in terms of the overall health budget was not high. But the benefits to families already facing erosion of incomes because of inflation and wage freezes, I would suggest, was considerable.

The policy sticks to the principle of a free-at-the-point-of-use health service as well as helping families cope in the current economic crisis.

The approximate cost of introducing a Cancer Fund in ­Scotland would be about £25 million (if the one for the whole of England costs £200m).

It is a political decision, and a difficult one, as to whether the Holyrood government should find the funds for this. But ministers ought not to be distracted by impractical proposals for the return of charges.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes