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The North's health minister "sees the merit" in charging drunk people for A&E visits

There are currently no plans to adopt such a policy in the south, however.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE HEALTH MINISTER in Northern Ireland says that he “sees the merit” of charging drunk people for clogging up emergency departments.

However, there are currently no plans in the south to bring in such a payment.

Speaking to the BBC after it was revealed that patient treatment targets in the north were missed 700 times in 12 months, Edwin Poots said that the free healthcare principle was being abused.

“The United Kingdom has a great principle of health care, free at the point of need to all who need it irrespective of their ability to pay for it.

I think it is a wonderful principle but I think on occasions it is abused and we sometimes need to look at how we can make sure that abuse doesn’t take place.

“The principle of [charging drunk people] has merit. The implementation is more challenging.”

Ireland

In the Republic, recent figures suggest around €45 million is owed to hospitals in respect of the €100 non-referral fee.

Every year, around 1.2 million people attend emergency departments and alcohol-related illnesses and injuries cost the healthcare system €1.2 billion.

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With hospitals already experiencing overcrowding, some in the medical community support the idea as a measure of relieving backlogs.

However, Roisin Devlin of the Royal College of Nursing said charging for A&E services was infeasible.

“The NHS has a duty to care for all, and the principle is that it’s free at the point of care,” she told the BBC.

Read: So it turns out that ‘free GP care’ might not actually be free

Read: Open thread: What’s your experience with hospital overcrowding?

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