This report by Niamh Fitzgerald (University of Stirling) and Colin Angus (University of Sheffield) investigates the extent to which alcohol policies and programmes across the UK are based on evidence.
The divergence of alcohol policy in the four nations of the UK since devolution has allowed us to compare and contrast how evidence is used in alcohol policy and the extent to which current policies across the UK are supported by scientific evidence. In this new report, we discovered substantial differences between the 4 nations in the way that alcohol problems are framed and policies implemented. These differences appear to reflect the level of activity within each country, with alcohol framed as a minority issue affecting only a small group of dependent drinkers at the UK level, while the more active devolved administrations tend to view or portray alcohol problems as a whole population issue.
Highlighted summary findings:
Overall, Scotland has the strongest approach to evidence-based alcohol policy and
the greatest alignment with the recommendations of Health First, an independent,
model evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK. The main gap relates to control of
marketing, over which the Scottish Government currently has very limited powers.
This is what Scotland is dealing with:
Official figures show the number of call-outs where alcohol is not the primary factor but the patient is so drunk it has to be formally recorded by crews | Telegraph, UK
An important addendum to Scotland’s approach is their on-going legal battle with the Scottish Whisky Association over minimum unit pricing which the European Court of Justice has now ruled on and it has gone back to the Scottish Courts:
How about comparing it to the proportionality of the number of ambulance call outs because of this substance? 🙁
Both Wales and Northern Ireland are strong in some areas (not necessarily the same
ones) and weaker in others, although they are more restricted than Scotland in terms
of the policy areas over which they have legislative autonomy. Both nations appear to
be progressively adopting evidence-based positions, and have called on Westminster
to devolve more powers to them – it is important that they act on their stated policy
intentions if they are successful in gaining such powers.
Alcohol abuse centres will be dealing with the problem “for the next decade”, one of Wales’ biggest charities warned | BBC, UK
The UK/England government in Westminster comes out worst on almost all alcohol
policy measures, having the weakest policies, with inconsistent use of evidence, and an evaluation strategy with obvious conflicts of interest (e.g. letting the alcohol industry evaluate the success of their own actions). The same government also has highest level of engagement with the alcohol industry.
This is what we’re dealing with:
This year I had cause to spend some time in a central London A&E for the first time in decades. There are no adequate words to describe the unnecessary, unwarranted and overwhelming challenges that drunks and drunkenness place upon them | Independent, UK
Across all 4 administrations there is a level of industry involvement in policy design
and implementation which exceeds their role as producers and distributors of alcohol, and some evidence supporting the thesis that such involvement is likely to undermine public health and promote weak or ineffective policies.
Following on from yesterday’s IAS report about the failure of the alcohol industry’s Public Responsibility Deal called Dead on Arrival
all I can say is ‘indeed’. Presented without further comment.
Edited to add: 17th February 2016
Devolution has seen alcohol policy diverging widely between UK nations. According to this independent assessment, Scotland leads the way with policies most closely aligned to evidence-based recommendations. Find out why the UK government as a whole and its direct responsibility England end up bottom of the league | Drug and Alcohol Findings, UK
Edited to add: 5th October 2016
Alcohol Policy in Scotland and Ireland: European Trailblazers or Celtic Fringes? | Alcohol Policy UK