LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Excessive drinking over New Year's Eve could cost Britain's National Health Service as much as 23 million pounds, according to a report on Thursday which recommends drunks be charged a hospital admission fee of 532 pounds ($845.9).
"Alcohol misuse in Britain is at a level where it constitutes a public health epidemic," said the report by the right-leaning Policy Exchange think-tank.
Direct costs to the state-funded NHS, which provides free health care for Britons, are nearly 3 billion a year, with hospital admissions for alcohol intoxication doubling in a decade, it added.
The government should review its entire strategy for tackling the harms from alcohol misuse, it advised.
"We recommend that the costs of being admitted to hospital to sleep off alcoholic excess should be met by individuals, not the NHS," said Henry Featherstone, head of the think-tamk's health unit.
"Those admitted to hospital for less than 24 hours with acute alcohol intoxication should be charged the NHS tariff cost for their admission of 532 pounds."
That amount would be reduced for those paying the costs of their own alcohol education and awareness course.
Department of Health figures confirm that total annual healthcare cost relating to alcohol misuse amounts to about 2.7 billion pounds a year.
(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Stefano Ambrogi and Paul Casciato)