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Hunt 'open' to charging for alcohol-related A&E attendances


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had a “great deal of sympathy” for the idea of charging alcohol-related admissions money if they end up in A&E units.

He acknowledged that there were practical difficulties in introducing a charge, but insisted that people should be made to take responsibility for their actions.

Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for people who had gone “over the top” on a night out, he said.

He said: “I’ve always had the same view, which is basically that people should take responsibility and if it’s through irresponsibility that they are costing all of us more as taxpayers then I don’t have sympathy.

“It’s practically very difficult”

Jeremy Hunt

“There’s a lot of people in the NHS we want to spend money on but we can’t because we have limited resources.”

He told LBC Radio: “I have a great deal of sympathy for the people who say we should charge people who use A&E because they go over the top on a Friday or a Saturday night.

“I don’t see why we, as taxpayers, should be funding that.

“I think the difficulty is actually distinguishing between the people who end up in an A&E department - perhaps they have been abused, they come from a troubled family - and the heartbeat of an A&E in any hospital, rightly, and I think everyone understands this, is they treat sick people who arrive in an emergency situation as quick as possible.

“So it’s practically very difficult. But if you are asking me, in terms of am I sympathetic with the sentiment, if there was a way that you could actually identify people who had been irresponsible, I would be open to it.”

Mr Hunt acknowledged that emergency departments were under a “lot of pressure” but “the real pressure is coming from vulnerable older people because of the ageing population”.


Readers' comments (10)

  • this is a dangerous path as do we then charge for injuries caused by sports, or conditions caused by over eating or DIY related injuries...hang on that's privatisation and then end of the NHS...I see a plan forming ...ooh you sneaky boy Jezzer

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  • This is absolutely the right way forward and Mr Hunt should be congratulated for his remarks. People need to take responsibility for their own health and actions.

    I'd hazard a guess that many of these individuals will be in receipt of one form of benefit or another and the government could easily claw back money that way.

    The time has come for individuals who drink, smoke and eat to excess to sign wellbeing contracts with their GP where they'll be given help to stop smoking or drinking or eating to excess. If they renege on this contract then they should be made to pay for their own care if they develop a smoking, alcohol or obesity related illness.

    There isn't a bottomless pot of money, people must take responsibility for themselves.

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  • Whilst I agree that encouraging individuals to take more responsibility for their own health is a something we should aspire to, I'm not convinced that charges are best way to achieve this. In the case of an 'alcohol' charge, I suspect the costs associated with collecting it would mean that it would not be cost effective.

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  • Not cost effective and lacking in understanding. If someone hasn't paid up is anyone really going to turn them away the next time? How would that sit with ll our registering bodies? conscience aside

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  • Everyone would be treated, money would be clawed back after the event, by garnering benefits etcetera.

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  • Admirable sentiment, impossible to implement.
    Who would decide what was "caused" by alcohol? Anything where the patient was intoxicated at the time (hit by a car? pub brawl? Mugged walking home from the pub? Heart attack while drunk? Cirrhosis of the liver? )

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  • Also huge assumption said targets are all in receipt of benefits!!!

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  • punitive reactions are usually very unhelpful longterm.

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  • disagree profoundly that punitive and penalising those who are usually most vulnerable is an admirable sentiment

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  • Hunt is a complete hypocrite. IF the govt wishes to reduce drink A&E visits (not to mention drink related crime) they need to look at tighter regulation of alcohol sales and advertising. And whose idea was it to have extended pub opening hours?!

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