Drunk logic: Targeting drug abusers won’t ease the NHS’s woes

 

Share

The idea of charging NHS patients who abuse the system has a superficial appeal. Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland health minister, has suggested issuing drunks who end up in the province’s already overburdened accident and emergency departments with a bill for the cost of their care.

It is easy to understand his frustration when A&E departments are besieged, targets have been missed and delays may have contributed to deaths. Mr Poots has had to find extra cash to tackle the long waits.

Targeting drunks and drug users would deter excessive consumption, ease the pressure on the health service and secure payment from those whose need for treatment is self-inflicted. Why should the NHS pay to patch up people whose sickness or injury is caused by their own irresponsible behaviour?

Superficially appealing maybe. “The principle [of charging] has merit,” Mr Poots said. But how would doctors and nurses decide who was to be charged? And how are we to define “irresponsible” behaviour? An injury suffered on the sports field might be deemed self-inflicted – but so too might the illness  suffered by the spectator who spends too long on the TV couch.

Obesity, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, various cancers (from smoking or lying in the sun) might also qualify as self-inflicted. And aren’t most injuries the result of some degree of carelessness for which the injured parties are often themselves to blame?

Charging drunks for treatment at A&E would be a stalking horse for charging the sober – an illustration of ministers’ desperation to find new sources of funding to sustain the tottering health service. It would raise little in the way of funds, sow discord among medics and patients and undermine the principle of an NHS free to its users.  

There are better ways to deter excessive drinking – health warnings on cans and bottles of alcohol were recommended yesterday by an all-party group of MPs – and better ways to raise cash for the NHS. Tax increases, not charges, are the painful but necessary way ahead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore