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Should Drunks Pay For Their Own Treatment?


Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 Should Drunks Pay For Their Own Treatment?

Tom Whitehead of the Telegraph (22/05/09) reports on an interesting concept. It has been suggested by Policy Exchange that drinkers who have spent less than 24 hours in hospital should be made to pay for their treatment. The Policy makers have set a figure of £532.

In addition, it has also been suggested that there ought to be a major overhaul of alcohol pricing in accordance with the number of units per drink, more specifically, a significant hike for higher strength drinks in a desperate attempt to stop alcohol misuse.

The report indicates that Bank Holidays are essentially a drain on NHS funds and that it is unfair to expect the public to bear the cost. Furthermore, police should have the power to issue more on the spot fines.

In essence, the report ‘hitting the bottle’ is advocating that current duty on both beer and cider specifically should be reduced when it is lesser equal to 2 units per drink. In contrast however, duty should be increased when alcoholic strength is greater than 2.5 units per alcoholic drink.

Head of Policy Exchange’s health & social care Unit, Henry Featherstone, says, “Because of the way duty rates are structured, there’s currently an incentive for problem drinkers to maximise the number of units of alcohol per purchase.

“The Government’s interest in introducing a mandatory code - limiting how much people can buy in quantity, but not strength - will only make that disastrously worse.

“Alcohol misuse in Britain is at a level where it constitutes a public health epidemic. Direct costs to the NHS are nearly £3 billion.


“Hospital admissions for alcohol intoxication have doubled in a decade. The Government should, now, commit to a review of its entire strategy for tackling the harms from alcohol misuse.”

Of equal merit is the concept that indiscriminate taxation is not the solution to the current epidemic of alcoholism in this country. As far back as (17/03/09) Max Davidson of the Telegraph reported that Gordon Browns Government ‘moved swiftly’ in response to Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer’s intention to increase taxation. Sir Liam has called for a minimum tariff, the equivalent to 50p per unit of alcohol.

Is has indeed been suggested that the Chief Medical Officers policies will be seen as non starters from a political perspective. Thus where the answer lies is still not clearly understood.

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