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Pledge to cut 1000 alcohol deaths

Brief interventions, minimum pricing and weaker drinks could cut deaths

Louise Prime

Friday, 23 March 2012

A comprehensive package of measures to combat alcohol-related illness and deaths has been announced by the Home Office.

Andrew Lansley said this morning that the Alcohol Strategy, which includes minimum per-unit pricing, better identification and treatment of heavy drinkers, and an industry promise to cut the strength of alcoholic drinks, could cut 1000 alcohol-related deaths in the next decade.

The Home Office is encouraging health professionals to make greater use of effective interventions to combat alcohol-related morbidity and mortality including:

  • brief interventions
  • specialised treatment for people dependent on alcohol
  • alcohol liaison nurses within A&E.

It is urging organisations to work in partnership locally, using ringfenced public health grants for local authorities and the new Health and Wellbeing Boards.

In addition, the Licensing Act will now include health protection as an objective when limiting an area’s total number of licensed premises – and local health bodies will for the first time have the power under the Act to intervene in licensing decisions in their area.

The Alcohol Strategy also involves changes to alcohol purchasing. It bans multibuy discounts (but not single-item offers) as well as planning to impose a minimum unit price for alcohol.

The alcohol industry and large retailers including Sainsburys and Tesco have already signed up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal, including a joint pledge to ‘take one billion units out of the market by 2015’, which means that they will work to improve the availability and choice of lower-strength alcoholic drinks.

The Department of Health estimates that the Deal could cut alcohol-related deaths by 1000 every year, as well as reducing crime and the cost to the health services.

Andrew Lansley said: “The Responsibility Deal shows what can be achieved for individuals and families when we work together with industry …We will work hard to engage even more businesses and get bigger results.

“Cutting alcohol by a billion units will help more people drink sensibly and within the guidelines. This pledge forms a key part of the shared responsibility we will encourage as part of the alcohol strategy.”

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