We Brits are not renowned for drinking responsibly – instead our problematic drinking culture is costing the NHS over £2bn a year.
I was deeply disappointed that government plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol have been dropped.
Most of my colleagues in the medical profession felt the same because we’ve seen first hand the devastation alcohol causes physically, emotionally and mentally.
David Cameron last year vowed to curb the sale of “beer cheaper than water” but there was no mention of it in this year’s Queen’s Speech.
The powerful drinks industries have drowned out the voices of reason and experience – coming from our overburdened NHS and emergency services who have to cope with one million alcohol-related hospital admissions each year.
The last government asked economic experts to calculate if a minimum price would make a difference. Results showed that a minimum cost of at least 50p per unit would slash rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. There would be 2,900 fewer premature deaths, 92,000 fewer hospital admissions per year and a healthcare saving in England of £270 million each year. And recent evidence from Canada showed that a 10% price increase for the cheapest drinks led to a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol-related deaths and a 9% reduction in hospital admissions.
The social issues resulting from alcohol abuse are immeasurable. In Dudley, police have resorted to putting up ‘no drinking’ signs in bid to crackdown on anti-social behaviour. Non-alcohol zones are becoming all too prevalent.
Violence fuelled by alcohol, outside or at home, is commonplace. Latest figures show that drugs prescribed to treat alcoholism have soared by almost 75 per cent in nine years.
There are centres around the Midlands that do tremendous work in helping addicts but they need to be financed. As the alcohol industry knows – money talks.
But when we look at the long-term implications the evidence should be sobering for us all.