Mps Report Says Health Impact Of Alcohol Misuse “Insidious And Pervasive
The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook has been
monitoring progress in Government policy relating to alcohol misuse for major
features on the topic in the next edition of the publication
Today the House of Commons Health Select Committee published its report on the
Government’s Alcohol Strategy.
Figures today show an ever-growing cost of alcohol to the NHS which currently stands at
£2.7bn a year, including £1bn on accident and emergency services. £2.7bn equates to £90
for every taxpayer in the country. This is part of a wider cost to society from alcohol of
between £17 billion and £22 billion per annum. In 2010/11 alone there were 200,000 hospital
admissions with a primary alcohol-related diagnosis, 40 per cent higher than in 2002/03. The
number of patients admitted with acute intoxification has more than doubled to 18,500 since
The Prime Minister said earlier in the year:
“Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have
to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse. And the problem is getting worse. Over the
last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people – many under-age –
who think it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread
fear and increase crime.
“This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it. As figures
today show the NHS is having to pick up an ever-growing bill – £2.7bn a year, including
£1bn on accident and emergency services alone. That’s money we have to spend because
of the reckless behaviour of an irresponsible minority.
“Across the country local hospitals, ambulance crews and the police are rising to the
challenge. We must help them to do so and will be setting out how through the forthcoming
Alcohol Strategy. Whether it’s the police officers in A&E that have been deployed in some
hospitals, the booze buses in Soho and Norwich, or the Drunk Tanks used abroad, we need
innovative solutions to confront the rising tide of unacceptable behaviour.”
The Government’s alcohol strategy sets out proposals to crack down on the 'binge drinking'
culture in our country; cut the alcohol-fuelled violence and disorder that blights too many of
our communities; and slash the number of people drinking to damaging levels.
The strategy includes commitments to:
introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol
consult on a ban on the sale of multi-buy alcohol discounting
introduce stronger powers for local areas to control the density of licensed premises
including making the impact on health a consideration for this
pilot innovative sobriety schemes to challenge alcohol-related offending
In addition, the coalition government's programme on alcohol includes commitments to:
overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers
to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to premises that are causing
allow councils and the police to permanently shut down any shop or bar that is
repeatedly selling alcohol to children
double the maximum fine for those caught selling alcohol to minors to £20,000
These measures will come into force on 25th April 2012. Later this year we will introduce
allow local councils to charge more for late-night licences, which will help pay for
give local areas the power to stop alcohol sales late at night if they are causing
problems by restricting operating and closing hours
MPs on the Health Committee warn in their new report that, whilst the Government's Alcohol
Strategy is a welcome attempt to address the problems alcohol causes in a coherent way, its
focus on public order overshadows health issues.
Launching the Committee's Government's Alcohol Strategy report, the Chair, Rt Hon
Stephen Dorrell MP, said:
"The main focus of the strategy is binge drinking and its consequences for anti-social
behaviour and public disorder. Those are important issues, but the health impact of chronic
alcohol misuse is in our view also significant and greater emphasis needs to be placed on
addressing that impact.
“The Strategy contains a series of outcomes the Government wishes to bring about but does
not define success.We believe that in order to be effective the Strategy needs some clearer
objectives to provide a framework for both policy judgements and accountability.
“We recommend that Public Health England should have a central role in developing these
objectives, and linking them to local strategies in every area across the country."
On the question of a minimum unit price for alcohol, Stephen Dorrell said:
"The Committee supports the decision to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol , but the
Government needs to recognise that setting the price is not a one-off event. A transparent
process must be put in place in order to ensure that the price level is evidence-based and is
monitored over time to assess its effectiveness.
“We also recommend that there should be a 'sunset clause' on the implementation of a
minimum price so that it only remains in place if it is shown to be effective in reducing
The Committee also concludes that:
The Responsibility Deal is intrinsic to responsible corporate citizenship, but it is not a
substitute for Government policy
The alcohol industry needs to acknowledge that its advertising messages do have an
effect on attitudes to alcohol and on consumption if it wishes to be seen as a serious
committed partner in the Responsibility
Rules on the advertising of alcohol should be re-examined to reduce the likelihood of
adverts being seen by or directed at young people under 18
Public Health England should undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of the
Responsibility Deal. It should also commission a study into the principles and
implications of introducing the French Loi Evin
The Department of Health's work on which models of treatment provision are most
effective in addressing the health issues caused by alcohol abuse is welcome. The
evidence the Committee received is that the establishment of Alcohol Specialist Nurse
services throughout the country is one of those models.
"Striking the right balance on alcohol consumption is not straight forward. Most people enjoy
alcohol without evidence of significant harm to their health, yet it is not possible to define
what is a generally safe level of consumption as alcohol affects different people in different
ways. Individuals who drink alcohol and the companies which sell it have an obligation to do
so in a way which respects the rights and interests of their fellow citizens," adds Stephen
The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Year book will continue to report
on Government action to curb alcohol misuse over the months ahead.