Daily Archives: 17/04/2015

Head of NHS says that tackling cheap booze is urgent priority

The Telegraph reported that the head of the NHS is calling for increases in the price of cheap alcohol amid warnings that heavy drinking is taking a “huge” toll on Accident & Emergency departments.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, signalled that action on alcohol pricing should be an immediate priority for the next Government, as he disclosed that its relative price has halved in three decades.

The head of the health service said the NHS needed to “stand up and be counted” to highlight the impact of alcohol on A&E departments around the country, to increase pressure on the next Government to tackle the issue.

Mr Stevens said heavy drinking and soaring levels of sugar consumption by the British public were now two of the most urgent health problems facing the nation, as he spoke at a King’s Fund event about the challenges facing the NHS.

“Alcohol together with sugar is one of the debates we really need the new Government to address very early in the next Parliament,” he told an event at the Kings Fund.

The head of the NHS is calling for increases in the price of cheap alcohol amid warnings that heavy drinking is taking a “huge” toll on Accident & Emergency departments.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, signalled that action on alcohol pricing should be an immediate priority for the next Government, as he disclosed that its relative price has halved in three decades.

The head of the health service said the NHS needed to “stand up and be counted” to highlight the impact of alcohol on A&E departments around the country, to increase pressure on the next Government to tackle the issue.

Mr Stevens said heavy drinking and soaring levels of sugar consumption by the British public were now two of the most urgent health problems facing the nation, as he spoke at a King’s Fund event about the challenges facing the NHS.

“Alcohol together with sugar is one of the debates we really need the new Government to address very early in the next Parliament,” he told an event at the Kings Fund.

“The fact is that the relative price of alcohol has come down by 48 per cent between 1980 and 2010,” he said.

So that is something that we would be wanting the next Government to take a very clear look at and wanting the health service to stand up and be counted, in those debates, recognising the huge impact that alcoholism and alcohol-induced emergency demand has all across the health service.”

He said overuse of alcohol was taking a huge toll on A&E departments and on hospital emergency admissions.

Latest figures show that 20 per cent of A&E attendances are alcohol related, a figure which 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, with a 60 per cent rise in such admissions in those aged between 15 and 29 in the last decade.

The Coalition considered plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, before putting the plans on hold, saying more evidence is required to see if it would help tackle problem drinking.

Last month senior health professionals called for a 50 pence minimum unit price for alcohol, which they say could help tackle a culture of “excessive consumption”. Such limits would mean that most bottles of wine or four-packs of strong lager could not be sold for less than £4.50.

Doctors have also said more should be done to help A&E units struggling to cope with violent binge drinkers, and abuse from alcoholics.

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, which represents A&E doctors, in January provoked controversy with calls for the police to arrest more drunks in order to reduce pressures on casualty units.

The A&E consultant urged the police to adopt a “zero-tolerance” strategy towards binge drinking that would see troublesome drunks arrested, charged and given a criminal record.

During the King’s Fund event yesterday, Mr Stevens singled out a number of current failings by the health service which he said were “not acceptable”.

The NHS chief executive, who took up post last April, said: “We have got to have some righteous anger about how things currently are.”

I am going hoarse with righteous anger repeating the same news stories and calls for a need to act on this issue and yet it continues to fall on deaf ears from the powers that be.  Again I ask – why is that and will the General Election in 3 weeks change things?

If you’re wondering what the main parties manifesto pledges are with regard to alcohol you can read them here:

Main party manifestos quiet on alcohol policy and minimum pricing