Daily Archives: 15/02/2015

Still banging the alcohol minimum unit pricing drum

An article in The Telegraph last month raised the subject once again of alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP).  Although there has been a great deal of media coverage of the subject already each new article appears to come at it from a different angle and so adds to our knowledge base of the surrounding issues and context.

This one takes the approach of the impact on A&E depts saying ‘put up drink prices to stop A&E crisis, says doctors‘ and has some suitable shocking statistics to go with it.

Leading doctors are calling for an end to cheap alcohol in an attempt to resolve the hospital accident and emergency crisis.

In a letter to The Telegraph, 20 senior health professionals are calling for a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, which they say could tackle a culture of “excessive alcohol consumption”.

Latest figures show that 20 per cent of A&E attendances are alcohol related.

The figures rises to 80 per cent during peak weekend periods on Friday and Saturday nights. Each year, more than one million hospital admissions in England are alcohol related.

Over the last decade, such admissions in those aged between 15 and 29 have risen by almost 60 per cent.

The doctors write: “The current A&E crisis is being compounded by the failure of policymakers to tackle the impact of excessive alcohol consumption.

“However, successive governments have failed to enact evidence-based policies that would save lives and ease pressure on the health, policing and criminal justice systems.”

They say: “A 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, regulation to protect children from alcohol marketing, improved alcohol labelling and the establishment of alcohol care teams with specialist consultants and nurses are simple measures, none of which would punish responsible drinkers, that must be adopted urgently in order to reduce pressures on A&E departments.”

Figures released last week showed that the NHS was experiencing its worst emergency performance in a decade. In the two weeks over Christmas, almost 21,000 patients waited between four and 12 hours on trolleys.

In some areas, the Red Cross and St John Ambulance services were being called upon to help, while fire engines and police cars were being used as makeshift ambulances.

At one point at least 14 hospitals had declared a ”major incident’’ which allows trusts to call in extra staff and ask for help from outside agencies.

Firstly I agree with all that these doctors are asking for and have to believe that the heat on govt and noise about this issue is getting louder and harder to ignore.  Secondly, A&E’s and hospitals in general have been under the cosh for years and this ‘worst winter bed crisis in a decade’ call is unsurprising.  But as I write a winter bed crisis is not a novel phenomena and if the funding of the NHS is becoming more stretched and resources more scarce then the govt should be acting to help take the pressure off by taking the call for MUP by senior medical professionals seriously.   How bad does it have to get before the non-medical politicians of govt  listen to the people who’s job it is to diagnose and treat such issues?