Via the Manchester Evening News:
Should the NHS be able to make people pay for treatment when they turn up at accident and emergency units with alcohol-related injuries? That novel suggestion is being kicked around by Manchester city council…
Coun Glynn Evans [Labour], executive member for adult health and well-being, says: “If you drink irresponsibly, you should pay the price.”
There’s both a policy and a political problem with the idea. The policy one is simply that if turning up drunk risks generating a fine, what will that encourage people to do? To stay away until they sober up. And if they are sober when they arrive, how do you tell if it is an alcohol-related injury for sure? Even if they do turn up drunk, what happens to people who are the innocent party, and even for whom the injury may be unconnected to them having been drunk? There is a massive minefield of complaint and administration awaiting here.
The political problem is one of Labour hypocrisy. When politicians from other parties suggest changes to the NHS that would not touch the “free at the point of delivery” principle, Labour still often descends on them ferociously as if the end of the NHS is nigh and anyone who wants to touch the way in which its services are delivered is an appalling extremist who wants to end the NHS.
If it is so awful to make changes which still leave the NHS free at the point of delivery, how should changes that involve charging people for using NHS A&E services be described?