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: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Supervisor / Housewares / Furniture

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

David Mellor has been exposed as an awful man, but should he have been?

Simon Kelner
Tony Blair speaks on stage at the 2nd Annual Save The Children Illumination Gala  

Tony Blair's award from Save the Children raises an important question: are they joking?

Chris Maume
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital