Government urged to tackle ‘escalating public health risk’ from alcohol

The Government should prioritise tackling the “escalating risk to public health” posed by alcohol, according to a group of healthcare organisations.

While plans have recently been formulated for dealing with obesity and smoking, there has been a “lack of strategic focus” on drinking, a letter from the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal Colleges claims.

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has risen each year by more than 100,000 since 2014/15 while fewer people are accessing treatment, the letter to public health minister Seema Kennedy adds.

The group calls for the Government to “prioritise alcohol in the same manner” as tackling obesity and smoking, by formulating a new alcohol strategy.

BMA board of science chairwoman, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, said: “The normalisation of alcohol in society has meant that unfortunately not enough is being done to highlight the harm that excess alcohol consumption can have on health; harm that we as healthcare professionals deal with on a daily basis.

“The cumulative effect of increasingly affordable alcohol, marketing and cuts to public health budgets means we are now witnessing a dangerous trend of increases in hospital-related admissions and alcohol-specific deaths alongside less people seeking treatment or help.”

She added: “The case for a new alcohol strategy could not be clearer and failure to tackle the increasing severity of this issue will mean that we will continue on this alarming trajectory resulting in more alcohol-related ill health and deaths.”

The Government last published an alcohol strategy in 2012, according to the letter, and since then responsibility for commissioning alcohol treatment services has been transferred to local authorities.

This move “coincided with repeated cuts to the public health grant, which is limiting the ability of local authorities to deliver alcohol and drug treatment services”, it adds.

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