The Northern Territory Government has almost doubled the accommodation allowance for remote area patients travelling to Darwin or Alice Springs for hospital treatment.

Health Minister Robyn Lambley says the Patients Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS) allowance will be increased from $35 to $60 a day, but denies that the move has any connection to the Royal Darwin Hospital medi-hotel controversy.

The 100-bed medi-hotel was initially built at a cost of $18 million provided by the Commonwealth to house remote area patients and their families travelling to the Territory capital for medical treatment.

The Territory Government is using it as a mandatory alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Mrs Lambley says the PATS increase is part of an election promise and would have happened despite the medi-hotel changes.

She concedes the extra money won't go far to pay a hotel bill in Darwin.

"It is a significant increase," she said.

"People who have gone through the PATS system will be very, very pleased ... [but] it doesn't go all the way."

Meanwhile, the Territory Opposition says the number of problem drinkers being taken into protective custody has dropped, because police are taking them straight to hospital.

The Government claims its anti-social behaviour policies are working because the number of people taken into protective custody has fallen by more than 30 per cent.

Labor leader Delia Lawrie says there are more drunks than ever on the streets.

"Police are taking drunks straight to hospital rather than to the cells because they are overwhelmed," she said.

"That means protective custody numbers are down."

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has demanded that the Territory Government return the $18 million spent on the medi-hotel to the Commonwealth so it can be used on other healthcare-related projects.

Mrs Lambley say the money will not be be given back.


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