March 29, 2012

NHS priorities

Should taxpayers' money be spent on drink-fuelled injuries, or on better cancer treatment?

Manchester Council wants to explore whether drunks who are taken to A&E could be charged for health treatment. (They might not pay, but that's a separate issue.)
A leading councillor admitted charging drunks for hospital treatment could prove difficult but said the council is determined to take radical steps.
More than 50,000 people a year are admitted to hospitals in Greater Manchester with alcohol-related illnesses and injuries. This is estimated to add up to some £400m annually, in Greater Manchester alone.

Project this figure across England and the total is - well - rather big.

To govern is to choose, as the saying goes. This seems a choice well worth debating - if we can find anyone to speak up for the drunks.

Implementation would undoubtedly raise all sorts of problems, but the principle seems a good one.

This wouldn't be about cutting health spending, it would be about priorities - using the available money in the way most likely to command taxpayers' support.


Andrew said...

"Manchester Council wants to explore whether drunks who are taken to A&E could be charged for health treatment."

They've already paid for the service (whether they wanted to or not). And then they've contributed even more thanks to the insanely high tax on booze.

The very idea that they should then be forced to pay even more to access "universal" health-care is a joke. Does the council believe that anyone who needs hospital treatment due to causes they might have had some control over should be charged?

John Page said...

If the tax collected on booze is going to be available to pay for booze-related injuries, how would you pay for NHS cancer treatment, the police, the army etc?

It's not self-evident that tax on alcohol should be ring-fenced so that it is available to pay for treatment for alcohol.

Andrew said...

That's not what I said.

But I can answer it anyway, alcohol duty brings in far more than it costs to treat.

And it's a pigovian tax, meaning the point for collecting it is to offset the costs of alcohol to society. The extra it brings in is a bonus.

And how would I pay for cancer treatment, etc?

If you mean under the current system I'd keep it as it is.

If you want to make people responsible for their actions and charge them for the damage they cause, then as I said in my first comment, why limit it to just the drinkers?

The last time I needed to go to hospital was because I'd slipped down some stairs and, it turned out, fractured my ankle.

It was entirely my fault, I was rushing and paying no attention to where I was. Should I have had to pay?

Why pick on the drinkers?

And then what about the problems of implementing it, if someone's been assaulted and they were drunk is that their fault?

John Page said...

Hi Andrew, you say that the point for collecting it is to offset the costs of alcohol to society. That's your assumption but it's not mine.

The difference between you slipping down the stairs and the Manchester drunks is that they've knowingly made themselves incapable, and there are evidently lots of them. They've "put themselves in harm's way".

TrT said...

"They've "put themselves in harm's way"."

So do hill climbers who need to helicoptered to safety.
So do soldiers and firemen and police officers.

So do people who walk to the shop and get stabbed by the local ferality

John Page said...

The emergency services are obviously special cases.

As for hill walkers, a lot fewer of them will turn up in A&E than do drunks.

Finally, someone going to the shops does have a reasonable expectation of not being harmed!

Andrew said...

Hi John,

I'm evidently not doing a very good job of putting across my point.

I'll try and focus on the principle:

Drinkers are far from being the only people to "put themselves in harm's way".

So should everyone who does so have to pay more?

Or just the drinkers? (Surprised they didn't start with smokers - guess they'll be next...)

Still, on the bright side, if they do put this greedy madness into action I think it'll be another step closer to getting rid of our socialist health system.

John Page said...

Andrew, it seems the Manchester councillors have focused on them because there are so many of them.

John said...

There exists precedent in that emergency treatment for road accidents is charged for. Insurers paying.