NHS bribes to kick bad habits by nanny state

The NHS is offering iPods, hotel breaks and helicopter trips as incentives to drinkers, smokers and drug users to adopt healthier lifestyles or undergo tests and treatment by the nanny state.

Teenagers who agree to be tested for the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia are being entered in prize draws to win Nintendo Wii games consoles.

Under a pilot scheme run by NHS Fife, smokers who give up cigarettes for three months are entered into a prize draw for a helicopter trip across the River Forth or an overnight stay for two in a luxury hotel. Other gifts on offer include iPods, toiletries and cinema vouchers.

Bexley NHS Care Trust and NHS Lothian have offered smokers who quit cash prizes of up to £500; another authority offers Asda food vouchers worth about £150. In Lanarkshire, recovering alcoholics and drug abusers are offered free passes to leisure centres.

NHS Northamptonshire offers people the chance to win Nintendo Wii games consoles worth about £160 in a monthly prize draw if they agree to be tested for chlamydia. It has also spent about £4,000 on book vouchers for 14 15 year olds who take part in the scheme.

Camden Primary Care Trust in London has spent almost £5,000 on Wiis and iPods for a chlamydia scheme; in Nottinghamshire, participants could win a £1,000 Fujitsu laptop.

The schemes, details of which have been obtained by The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act, have been criticised by politicians and taxpayers’ groups.

They question the efficacy and ethics of using hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to reward people for giving up vices that they chose to take up in the first place.

“We are extremely sceptical about whether public money should be handed over in this manner,” said Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary for the Conservatives.

“Incentives should be geared around helping people to live healthier lives, for example by encouraging them to do more exercise, not simply handing over taxpayers’ hard earned money.”

Mark Wallace, campaign director for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: “A lot of people would be concerned that this is not what they pay their taxes for. Particularly when a lot of these things people should be doing anyway of their own accord. It’s in people’s own interests to get their health checked out and there are serious questions about the effectiveness of these incentives.”

However, health officials insist that the incentive schemes are cost-effective because they raise awareness and save the NHS money in the long run by preventing disease.

The cost to the NHS of treating smoking related diseases is £3 billion a year. An estimated 1% of women aged 16 to 19 have chlamydia, which can cause infertility. More than 2,000 15-year-olds contracted it in 2008 due to underage, unprotected sex.


Health Direct asks when will the insanity stop?

Labour’s nanny state rewards those that do wrong then reform. Why don’t we try rewarding those that do right in the first place- how about IPods and helicopter trips for kids that are drug free and don’t have sexually transmitted diseases?

It’s yet another example of how they have created a society that rewards failure.

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