talkRADIO’s Mike Graham has described drinking in excess as “idiocy” and suggested that those who become so intoxicated should be charged to use the NHS’s new ‘drunk tanks’.
The NHS is funding a dozen ‘drunk tanks’ across the UK over the festive period to deal with those who have had too much.
The tanks will cost the NHS £300,000 but are being set up to take the pressure off of hospitals and emergency services.
talkRADIO guest Andrew Misell, Director of Alcohol Change UK for Wales had dismissed Graham’s suggestion of charging those who use the ‘drunk tanks’ as “not practical”.
“I understand the frustration but it does not work practically. It is quite difficult to extract money from people who don’t want to give it,” he said.
“If you start saying, 'I am going to charge you for your healthcare because you did it to yourself', it raises all sorts of questions. I am a bit overweight, are you going to charge me for my healthcare?”
Graham disagreed, saying: “N,o because you have not gone out and eaten five kebabs to the point where you are in a state of almost food poisoning that you need to be admitted for emergency healthcare.
“Drinking to excess is not about healthcare, it is about idiocy. It is about irresponsibility and I would guarantee you that if you charged someone, they won’t be doing it again next time.”
'A national sport'
Mr Misell described drinking at Christmas as a “national sport” for many.
He added: “‘Drunk tanks’ make it sound very ‘Fairytale of New York’, it is not like a police cell. Some places have a port-a-cabin, some places have a bus. What it basically is a room full of folding beds with drips.
“The major problem, and this is where the NHS I think gets a bit fed up, is that people turn up at casualty and the only thing that is wrong with most of them is that they are intoxicated.
“That means they have too much alcohol in their system and they are dehydrated. For most of them, if you lie them down in a safe position, and you put a drip in their arm to get water back in their body, in a few hours they will be more or less back where they should be. They can just get up and walk home.”
He argued that these centres do cost money to run, but that they are cheaper than the alternative.
“It does cost the NHS to run centres like this but – I have been part of a big study – it is actually a lot cheaper to put them on a camp bed and give them a drip than put them in an ambulance, where you have two ambulance drivers tied up maybe for an hour,” he said.
The areas that are getting funding for ‘drunk tanks’ include Soho in central London, Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, Hereford, Norwich, Blackpool and Southampton.