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Free prescriptions should be axed, say public sector chiefs

  • 6 Comments

Free prescriptions and eye tests, along with other universal benefits, must be considered for the axe, public sector chiefs have said.

A period of “entrenchment” lies ahead in public spending, Holyrood’s Finance committee was told, with all council services at risk.

The Scottish Budget is forecast to be cut by as much as £35 billion over the next 15 years, prompting Labour’s David Whitton to suggest putting a “limit” on free prescriptions, free pensioner travel and free school meals.

On this, Ronnie Hinds, from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, said: “That question really has to be asked. It’s not going to be easy.”

He claimed: “It won’t be easy decisions for politicians to make or get acceptance from the population but we do have to go there.”

Mr Hinds said in his area of Fife free concessionary travel was axed.

Robert Calderwood, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said health service bosses have called into question the provision of universal benefits, while giving evidence at a Budget review committee.

He said spending which enables benefits such as free eye tests could instead be used in other areas.

“We have highlighted that it is important to look at choices going forward and the issue as to whether free eye tests, free prescriptions universally available should be more targeted as a choice to be compared to the other opportunity costs of that money,” he said.

“I do believe that the Parliament needs to address these issues in relation to future years’ opportunity costs.”

Prescription charges will be abolished entirely in Scotland from April next year.

Public expenditure will be cut by an average 3% a year until 2014-15 and may take between 12 and 15 years for spending to return to the level of the last financial year, the report said.

During that period between £25 billion and £35 billion may be cut in real terms from Scottish expenditure.

 

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • As someone who relies on anti convulsant medication to live a normal life I hope that I will be able to have this medication for free however, I dont think that my exeption certificate should be for all prescriptions I am given. Perhaps that would be a sensible compromise?

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  • I think there should be a tiered pension system which reflects the effort many have made throughout our working lives. For those of us who have worked all our lives, I suggest that a good basic state pension should be the aim of this new government, and do away with all the add-ons which often go unclaimed and add up to 2 billion pounds a year, and is a underhanded and shameful way of government to save money at the expence of the old and vulnerable. £170 pension a week is a good starting point. It has been costed and found to be affordable even in these times by undertaking good housekeeping and plugging these grossly unfair tax loopholes. For those who have chosen not to work, a lower rate should be paid, I suggest £000.00 a week is a good starting point. All the energy they have saved throughout their lazy lives should stand them in good stead to start working at 65 and continue until they drop. And for those who have not been able to work or cared for family, a carers pension should be awarded to reflect the appreciation that we as a caring community should have for such selfless individuals.

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  • If I had to offer free prescriptions to pensioners on £10K per annum or pay rises to nurse lecturers on £45K or NHS bosses who spend all their time in meetings on £100K+, I would choose the pensioners.

    After all, the NHS exists for the patients. Any benefits for the staff should be incidental.

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  • Its mainly children and older people who benefit from free prescriptions, eye tests, etc. Why pick on the weakest in society when cuts have to be made?

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  • No one seems to be picking up on the fact that taking away free eyetests would be a false economy. Eye tests can pick up underlying medical conditions. Surely its better to spot Type 2 Diabetes and so on earlier, than to spend thousands way down the line on treatment for leg ulcers and amputations. Prevention is better than cure!

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  • Pensioners on £10,000 a year? where do you live? I know in France pensioners consider themselves to be in poverty if they get less than 1,100 euros a month. Makes a previous contributor's suggestion of £170 a week, or £736 PCM, seem pretty paultry by comparison, and we actualy get about £542 PCM about half what they get in France. Which incidently places us 3rd from the bottom in the league table of pensions paid out in the EU. When you consider the less well off east european states in the EU pay their pensioners more than we do, that is a bad indictment of our governments over recent years, all of them.

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