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alcohol health alliance uk

Balance renew calls for minimum unit price for alcohol in England

Worrying rise in alcohol deaths in the North East in 2020

Balance responds to the Budget

Posted 25/11/20

North East campaigners have renewed calls for the Government to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in England after new figures revealed the number of deaths directly caused by alcohol fell by 10% in the first full year after the measure was introduced in Scotland.

The call comes from Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, after data from the National Records of Scotland revealed there were 1,020 alcohol-specific deaths in 2019 - a fall of 10% compared with the previous year, and the lowest figure since 2013.

It comes amid warnings that 8.4m adults in England were drinking at high risk levels during the pandemic, up from 4.8m in February , and nearly 400,000 people in the North East are drinking more .

In the North East, there were 1,225 alcohol specific deaths between 2016-2018 . Balance is backing national health leaders and renewing calls for the Government to put MUP firmly on the agenda in England. The University of Sheffield (released in February 2020) has calculated that in the North East a 50p minimum unit price would:

• Prevent almost 2,000 deaths over the next 20 years
• Avoid over 3,200 hospital admissions a year
• Prevent over 4,300 crimes a year.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “The evidence from the evaluation of MUP so far in Scotland has shown that it is having the intended effect on alcohol consumption, and now it looks like we may be beginning to see this translate into health benefits.

“Health organisations are incredibly worried about rates of drinking right now and the impact on health, but cheap alcohol has been fuelling this for many years. It is a scandal that here in England it is still possible to drink the entire Chief Medical Officer’s low risk guidelines of 14 units of alcohol for just £2.68 – less than a cup of coffee on the high street.
“In the North East we suffer many of the same alcohol-related harms as our neighbours in Scotland. We have the highest rates of hospital admissions and deaths in England due to alcohol as well as high rates of alcohol related crime. This costs our region over £1bn a year.

“Yet while the Scottish Government is doing something to tackle the problem – our Government is not doing anywhere near enough. MUP is a highly targeted measure, increasing the price of the cheapest, highest strength alcohol products consumed by the heaviest drinkers. Introduced as part of an evidence-based alcohol strategy, MUP would make a real difference to individuals, families and communities throughout our region.

“It is clear we as a nation have a drink problem. We need to tackle the cheapest strongest alcohol as part of our plan to reduce the harms of alcohol as we emerge from Covid.”