Alan Dee: No need to pay for A&E if we just had the right records

There’s been a lot of tutting about the suggestion that there should be a charge made if you visit a hospital A&E department and it turns out that it’s not really an emergency, and I can see how people would have their reservations about introducing payments of this kind into the NHS system.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 7th January 2014, 5:22 pm

But as usual, I have a solution – and if you think it’s all a bit complicated, all I can say is that if it’s good enough for Tesco and Sainsbury’s, it shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off.

If the grocery giants are able to keep tabs on me to such an extent that they know precisely what sort of biscuits I prefer and how often I am likely to buy them, why isn’t it possible to have some sort of citizenship loyalty card?

Here’s how it would work, although you’re doubtless aware of the general idea.

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Everyone would have a card, and it would contain basic information about who you are and other handy information that would aid any medical professional trying to help you – blood group, health history and the like.

All clear so far? Let’s take it a step further – it would also flag up to anyone arriving at A&E that your GP has been consistently urging you to cut out smoking, reduce your booze intake, take a bit of exercise and occasionally add a vegetable to your diet.

If it’s clear that you’ve been ignoring all that guidance and that your current state of health is largely self-inflicted, why shouldn’t you go to the back of the queue?

If you’re the sort who has a season ticket at A&E because you won’t take the time to see a GP, phone 111 for help or learn a bit about how your body works and change your lifestyle accordingly, I’m not suggesting that you should be shown the door – but the prospect of having to wait your turn might be enough to get you moving in the right direction, surely?

Here’s another thought – if you’re a regular blood donor, if you’re signed up to offer up your organs in the event of your death, why shouldn’t that give you a push up the line?

If you’re a realist about just how much information there is about you on record already and you’re not trying to fly under the wire, let’s take it a little bit further.

Are you up to date with your taxes? Do you follow the rules on recycling? Do you have a criminal record? Do you regularly volunteer to help others? I’m sure that the majority of us who tick those boxes wouldn’t have a problem with getting a bit of a leg-up because of our commendable citizenship.

Conspiracy theorists will quickly add other data to that list – did you vote for the government, have you made an official complaint about your treatment in the past, that sort of thing.

But we need to do something to stem the needless A&E tide, and the technology is available now.