Binge-drinkers 'should pay for hospital stays'

New Year revellers who are admitted to hospital to sleep off their alcoholic excesses should be charged a fee of more than £500 for the privilege, a leading think-tank has proposed.

Policy Exchange, which has the ear of David Cameron, said that binge drinking this New Year's Eve was set to cost taxpayers £23m. It suggested that the burden should be removed from the NHS and passed on to individuals, with a £532 charge for anyone admitted for less than 24 hours with acute alcohol intoxication. The number of people entering hospital for alcohol intoxication has doubled in a decade.

Henry Featherstone, the head of Policy Exchange's health & social care unit, said the Government needed to review its strategy in tackling binge drinking. "Alcohol misuse in Britain is at a level where it constitutes a public health epidemic – direct costs to the NHS are nearly £3bn a year," he said.

"We recommend that the costs of being admitted to hospital to sleep off alcoholic excess should be met by individuals, not the NHS."

The latest government statistics suggest that 7.6 million people in England drink at a level hazardous to their health, with 2.9 million showing signs that they have already done harm to themselves through excess drinking.