THE development of the discussion on childhood obesity is to be encouraged but, at the end of the day, it is essential that the young people themselves and, even more importantly, their parents are made aware of the consequences of any inaction ("Sturgeon declares war on junk food in bid to tackle obesity in children", the Herald, May 15).

Research undertaken details the complex health-related illness that arise from obesity and, at the end of the day, the prospective patient (the obese young person) has to be aware of that research, the risk they are running (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, 11 types of cancer, Alzheimer's and so on, not to mention new knees / hips and the likes) and their responsibilities in this respect.

As someone who was born before the creation of the NHS I am aware of stresses that arose, back in the "good old days", when someone had to be really ill before they called the doctor; when there were the stories of the money for the doctor being on the mantelpiece – just in case.

The consequences of failure to tackle this obesity epidemic are just too frightening to contemplate. I fear it will ultimately bankrupt NHS Scotland.

Alan McKinney,

10 Beauchamp Road, Edinburgh.

MARIANNE Taylor's cri de coeur about mental health services ("Let Baby Boomers pay for better mental health services", The Herald, May 14) was a timely reminder of a serious healthcare problem which is not currently being adequately addressed, and her pointing out that the current NHS funding model is not dealing with it is entirely correct.

There are a couple of key points which must be addressed about her conclusions however.

She – regretfully – continues to perpetuate the myth that we have a national insurance fund in this country.

The fact is that national insurance contributions are a supplementary income tax, and that health care funding does not, and never has in this country, come out of anything other than the government's “current account” of total income from taxation.

The technical term for what we have in the UK – using international nomenclature – is an unfunded healthcare system. And for what it’s worth, it is appropriate to underline that we also have an unfunded pension system.

This does not make us unique, but it must be emphasised that many other countries have fully-funded healthcare and pension systems where there is a clearly defined and identifiable healthcare budget much as you or I might have a separate savings account in addition to our current account and in simple terms there is real cash in that account, not a notional share from the exchequer – and they work well.

The benefit of this is direct and identifiable contributions to meet the identified costs.

We are suffering – all of us – from a blinkered approach in healthcare.

We need to revisit and redefine what resources we actually need to be able to deliver appropriately.

Some years ago, there was a planning of resources based on “needs analysis” in the NHS – regrettably this no longer exists. It is something I worked to put in place in a number of countries I have worked in over the years, and it is our tragedy that Scotland has forgotten it as a priority, and for this we are all suffering.

Patrick McNally,

Kennoch House, St Quivox, Ayr.