Kieran McCarthy MLA said: “The core belief of the National Health Service is that it is free at the point of entry. I would be extremely concerned if the Health Minister were to set up financial barriers to our accident and emergency services.
“All people who find themselves in need should be treated. Many people who suffer from drink or drugs problems are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and I would fear that this proposal would only further exclude them.
“Any such proposal would only add further bureaucracy to a system that is already struggling to deal with the current level of paperwork. It would also add further pressures to front line staff who would have to operate such a system. How would they determine when somebody should be charged, or would it just be anybody who had taken a drink?
“There are other means, through education and information, to ease pressures on our accident and emergency services, rather than charging certain patients.”