UK Politics

Viewpoint: Katie Hopkins on NHS eating, smoking and drinking costs

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Media captionPhilip Hammond and Emily Thornberry take the opposite view to Katie Hopkins and her ideas for NHS charging

Former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins argues that people who eat, drink and smoke more than is good for them should pay more towards the NHS health care they need, as she sets out her calls for additional payments for some health services.

A strange and particularly British trait is revealed when things are free at the point of use.

Just like all-inclusive holidays, or theme-park tickets, once you have handed over the money, the cost seems instantly forgotten.

The ability to have as much as you want whenever you want it, or to go on as many rides as you can whenever you like, is all that matters.

Somehow, everything in this new land of plenty is free. The NHS is rather like this.

Free at the point of use has been translated to "free" - and 75 years on from Beveridge, the NHS continues to provide free health care to all.

Free health care absolves us of all responsibility from the consequences of our actions and transfers them directly on to this great "Disneyland of doctors", called the NHS, that will care for us depending entirely on our clinical needs.

Perverse society

If I smoke myself into breathing difficulties, the NHS will pick up the pieces.

If I drink myself into oblivion, I will be scooped up by an ambulance crew, and if I over eat my way to ill health, a team of medical experts will try to fix the problems I have created.

These problems are not cheap. The NHS is spending billions of pounds treating obesity in 2012.

As people get fatter, ambulance trusts are forking out thousands of pounds on bariatric ambulances with reinforced tail-lifts and inflatable lifting cushions.

Sometimes it seems as if Beveridge's five giant evils have been replaced with new modern evils of overeating and sloth, a perverse society where we provide free health care to those who seem to "suffer" from having too much and doing too little.

And it is not as if we can play the ignorant card. We create these problems in the full knowledge that smoking is a killer, that drink destroys your liver, that obesity never going to be good for your heart.

We are well aware that we are supposed to take regular exercise. We know this stuff.

We are told it every day: in magazines, on product packaging, and on the TV.

So why does our overcrowded NHS continue to indulge our stupidity? Why do we offer free treatment to those that refuse to listen?

Some people will say they have "earned" their treatment through the billions of pounds in taxes paid on alcohol and cigarettes each year.

But should these sin taxes really operate like a get-out-of-jail-free card, enabling you to drink and smoke as much as you choose?

Denmark's "fat tax" is clearly a long way from a panacea to solve the overwhelming problems obesity causes. Many say it is a regressive tax, penalising the poor.

Unhealthy choices

Others say that any solution needs to treat the problem, not simply tax the products that fuel it.

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Media captionKatie Hopkins: "Why does our overcrowded NHS continue to indulge our stupidity?"

Surely the only way to change behaviour is to recalibrate the whole system and link the consequences of our actions back to the choices we take.

Currently the government is standing in the way of the financial reality of unhealthy choices.

While NHS provision is decided on clinical need, there is a safety net that promises to catch everybody, regardless of their actions or their ability to pay.

We need to strip away this safety net. Stop the government providing a free pass to medical care - and make people pay for their poor choices.

Frankly if you don't care about your body or your health, then as a taxpayer funding the NHS, nor do I.

* The full programme can be seen on BBC iPlayer for seven days for UK viewers.

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