Looking back on the now distant festive season I can say it was the excess of cheese that most surprises me. Every time someone called in, out came a cheese board. So varied were our cheeses that some of them had fruit in them and one of them was blue. On purpose. I put on half a stone of cheese.
Still, Christmas is a time for excess it seems. We spend too much, we eat too much and sometimes we drink too much. Of course what constitutes “too much” varies for each of us; personally I peak at about two glasses of wine, everything from there is downhill. At three glasses I insist people play Scrabble and Twister - at the same time. One more and I start telling people I used to be all of Siouxsie and the Banshees and three sips later I try to prove it.
For others this is a staging post for the long night ahead. A night that will include putting a traffic cone on your head, trying to have sex with a tree and being sick in all of your coat pockets. Drink makes us stupid. Sometimes it makes us dangerous but usually it makes us stupid. Increasingly, however, it also makes us ill.
‘Christmas is a time for excess. Personally I peak at about two glasses of wine. At three glasses I insist people play Scrabble and Twister - at the same time’
Immediately after the New Year celebrations, when half the country was hungover and really not paying attention, a report by the NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Physicians emerged telling the population that alcohol addiction was costing the NHS £2.7bn a year. It called for more primary care intervention and investment in out of service provision. On hearing this most of the population said “Shhh” and went back to bed.
Meanwhile a right leaning think tank (no, I have no idea where they get their money from either) called Policy Exchange claimed alcohol misuse was so rife it constituted an epidemic and the drain it caused on NHS resources was such that people admitted because of drunkenness should be charged the cost of their bed for the night - £532.
Of course one’s first response is to never trust any suggestion that compromises the NHS premise of providing healthcare that is free at the point of access. But then I found myself thinking, “hang on… why not?”
Now, of course, this may be a slippery slope. Next, I may start believing in things like “wealth creation” and corporal punishment. I understand the idea that charging anyone for anything to do with the health service could create a premise upon which all sorts of charges could be built. And anyway a drunk could easily claim he paid for his bed when he paid his taxes and he’d have a point.
But we have also paid our road tax and that doesn’t mean we don’t get fined for speeding. It may be that we need to confront the space that exists between our so called rights and responsibilities.
We have the right to good treatment when we need it but we have a responsibility to treat the NHS as a valuable resource not to be abused. If we make choices that abuse it, is it wholly wrong that we should be asked to pay for the treatment we receive?