The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) have released a report ‘slamming’ the controversial Public Health Responsibility Deal, suggesting it has “worsened the health of the nation”. However with no word from the Government on its future and no indications of a new national strategy, the existence of any clear national alcohol policy in England looks uncertain.
The IAS report, ‘Dead on Arrival? Evaluating the Public Health Responsibility Deal for Alcohol’ [pdf], is largely based on recent research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as previously covered on APUK.
The IAS though say the ‘report demonstrates the failings’ of the deal, finding:
- The Responsibility Deal is not endorsed by academics or the public health community
- It has pursued initiatives known to have limited efficacy in reducing alcohol-related harm
- The evidence on the effectiveness of the Responsibility Deal is limited and unreliable, due to ambiguous goals and poor reporting practices
- Where evaluation has been possible, implementation has often failed to live up to the letter and/or spirit of the pledges
- The Responsibility Deal appears to have obstructed more meaningful initiatives with a stronger evidence base behind them
National alcohol strategy – put to rest?
As recently raised, the future of the responsibility deal is unclear given most of the time-frames for the measurable pledges having passed. The IAS report however states the Alcohol Network has not met in over a year, and the Government has not explicitly committed to its renewal. The Portman Group, an alcohol industry funded body who have overseen and supported a number of the alcohol pledges do not appear to have commented as yet, although highlighted the claimed successes of the deal and associated partnership work earlier this year.
The responsibility deal was launched in 2011 by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. In 2012 it was followed by a national alcohol strategy which infamously committed to minimum unit pricing, but also backed the deal and partnership approaches. Word though suggests that the current Government have no plans for a new alcohol strategy, though some alcohol actions will be included in a forthcoming crime strategy.
The Conservative manifesto did however commit to “make sobriety orders available to all courts in England and Wales, enforced through new alcohol monitoring tags”, which looks set to go ahead based on the claimed success of extended London pilots. In addition, the manifesto committed to addressing alcohol dependency as one of the ‘root causes of poverty’. However given cuts already announced to public health budgets from which treatment services are funded, it was probably more an ode to the current Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) review into drug and alcohol dependency and employment.
Public Health England (PHE) however, whose remit includes supporting local areas in addressing drug and alcohol harms, are likely to continue to promote key areas that have made up recent national and local alcohol strategy. PHE have also said they would continue to set out the evidence base for minimum pricing. A consultation on proposed changes to the recommended guidelines is also due ‘shortly’, but beyond this, there may be little more to come from the current Government on alcohol policy in England.
James Morris at Alcohol Policy UK does such a good job of presenting the issue that there is nothing I can add. Tomorrow however I’ll look at a new evidence into the divergence of alcohol policy across the UK which follows on nicely from this 🙂 Any thoughts on this from you?