SORRY, Mark Smith, just as there really are no free lunches, there are no "free" prescriptions in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where the costs of prescriptions are paid through general taxation in the same way as treatment in other ways within the NHS is funded ("New First Minister should end free prescriptions", The Herald, May 4).

Prescription charges were gradually phased out in Wales, followed by Northern Ireland and, finally by Scotland, leaving patients in England as the only area within the UK eligible to pay a charge unless exempt for a variety of reasons.

Mr Smith is correct in saying that there are several categories of patients who can be exempt from charges, whether on the basis of age, financial circumstances or specific medical conditions. Unfortunately the latter gives rise to several anomalies in that only a limited number of conditions are specified while other chronic conditions, for example, certain long-term mental illnesses, arthritis, and some skin conditions do not qualify for exemption. There are patients with several other long-term conditions who could make a strong case for exemption, but who feel unfairly excluded. Should those with a single condition which allows them exemption also allow them exemption from charges for prescriptions for any and all unrelated conditions? To extend the list of exempted conditions would reduce the "savings" in the system, while quite possibly, still leave some conditions not included.

Having considered the various anomalies in the system and taking into account the costs associated with its administration, the health ministers in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland decided that the phased abolition of prescription charges was the fairest outcome, a conclusion with which I agree. It should be noted that many other countries with a state-funded healthcare system have evolved different ways of coming to terms with increasing healthcare costs, including those of providing medicines. None is without some anomalies. Perhaps within the UK, with three of its component parts having arrived at the same conclusion to abolish prescription charges, it could be argued that this is the fairest outcome.

Malcolm Allan, Bishopbriggs.

• YOUR front page lead story ("Warning as NHS dentistry recruitment ‘in deep crisis'", The Herald, May 6) provides another outstanding example of a massive failure by successive governments to make adequate provision for public services.

Such an outcome does not happen suddenly, but rather over a prolonged period of time. We learn that younger dentists are choosing to go straight into private practice or to move to countries abroad, such as Australia. Scotland is obviously placed at a disadvantage when one learns that dentists here take home £6,000 less than their counterparts in England because of the taxation provisions in Scotland. Moreover, it is alarming to read of the measures resorted to by some individuals who have been unable to obtain dentistry on the NHS or to pay for private treatment ("DIY dentistry rise: ‘I couldn’t see a dentist - so I pulled out my own teeth'", The Herald, May 6).

Aneurin Bevan, John Freeman and Harold Wilson, three Labour personages, all resigned from the Labour Government in 1951 over the proposed prescription charges for dental care and spectacles. One wonders what they would make off the situation today.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

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Consent by ticking boxes

IN his reply to my letter of May 3, Willie Maclean (Letters, May 6) seems to have missed my point. He gives a summary and rationale of what the Hydro Board was doing 50 years ago. Interesting, but ancient history. My argument is about what developers are doing now.

Under current planning rules, developers of large-scale electricity infrastructure must consult communities before making a planning application and must hold at least one public consultation event in the local area.

To the average man on the street, a consultation exercise implies a two-way dialogue. Sadly, what appears to be happening across the country is that developers are presenting communities with their plans and, regardless of feedback, are not altering them in light of legitimate concerns.This "tick-box" way of developers satisfying the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it, causes immense frustration and anxiety to rural communities in Scotland.

In addition, Scottish ministers, via the Energy Consents Unit, decide the planning applications of large-scale electricity developments. They can (and they do) overrule the wishes of local authorities, community councils and residents.

As I said in my original letter, this is not a "just transition"’ by anyone’s definition.

Karin Coltart, Thornhill.

Smart vision is anything but

STEVE Smith, head of smart places at FarrPoint, wants to install a device into the kettle of an elderly person, to alert family if the loved one is no longer making a cup of tea ("Could AI help find answer to social care problems?", Agenda, The Herald, May 6). That is not how to care for a love one. Rather you pop round, on a regular basis, and make them a cup of tea.

On the same page, Dr Stefan Slater highlights the damage done to general practice by the 2004 contract (Letters, May 6). It should be remembered that the computerised systems that took over general practice after 2004 were inspired by "digital leads", that is, people looking to control the delivery of health care through the imposition of electronic systems. And look what happened. Now the "digital leads" are turning their attention to social care. "Smart technology," writes Steve Smith, "assisted by artificial intelligence, has the potential to revolutionise social care by improving quality and efficiency, while also empowering people to live independently for longer."

That sentence could have been generated by a piece of AI software. It's a portent of a dystopia; a vision of Hell.

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.

The Herald: Is the planning consent system for wind farms flawed?Is the planning consent system for wind farms flawed? (Image: PA)

It's OK to let go of your feelings

IN the 19th century, after scoring a goal, Queen's Park players,without even a handshake, ran back to the centre circle for the restart. Fast forward to the 21st century, and the club plays Enjoy Yourself by The Specials when the Spiders hit the net. There was much rejoicing on and off the field when said net was twice hit against Airdrieonians last Friday.

I feel sorry for John McGuinness (Letters, May 6), who seems not to understand the mutual joy experienced by players and spectators when goals go in.

It is not unknown for my good lady to shout and ask if I am all right on hearing noises from upstairs when particularly important televised goals are scored.

David Miller, Milngavie.