Lamb: “rat-arsed drunks” should pay A&E bills

by Stephen Tall on September 14, 2007

You can’t accuse Norman Lamb, Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for health, of slipping out gently his policy proposal that patients needing emergency NHS treatment after becoming drunk or incapacitated by drugs should be charged:

“If you get rat-arsed on a Friday night and get taken to A&E where you are foul and abusive to staff, is it right for the taxpayers to fund your life-saving treatment?”

Though this is perhaps the most eye-catching proposal from Norman – gathering headlines in The Guardian, The Times and – it is by no means the only one.

His paper – not Lib Dem policy, but his contribution to the party’s health policy working group – proposes:

• An elected Local Health Board: putting people in charge of decisions about their local health services.
• A local health contribution: offset by cuts in national income tax, this would allow communities to raise extra money for their local health services.
• A Patient Adviser: a universal information service accessible via the GP surgery, guiding the patient through the full range of health, social care and other support services.
• A ‘Patient’s Contract’: a declaration of entitlements that every citizen has of right, wherever they live.
• Empowering patients: exploring introducing more direct payments and personal budgets.

Here’s what Norman says about his paper:

“The Liberal Democrats are committed to an NHS which delivers high quality health services to all, irrespective of income.

“As Derek Wanless recently said, this can only be achieved by getting better value for money, but it is crucial to recognise that not every area has the same priorities. In today’s highly centralised NHS there is a real ‘democratic deficit’, with too many decisions made in Whitehall.

“Protests against hospital closures and cuts to services, up and down the country, show that local people do not feel their voices are being heard.

“Liberal Democrats think the status quo is unacceptable. The key is creating real accountability to local communities, where they have the power to make decisions on how money is spent on their NHS. Patients would be genuinely empowered to take control of their own healthcare through better information and a ‘patient contract’.

“My paper will help inform the debate on how the Liberal Democrats can genuinely give people a say in their local health service.”