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alcohol health alliance uk

Drinkers in the NE suffer more alcohol harm than in Wales

Cheap white cider

Cheap white cider

Posted 02/03/20

Shocking new figures show people in the North East are more likely to die or be hospitalised from alcohol than people in Wales. It comes just as the Welsh Government implements lifesaving Minimum Unit Price today (March 2) aimed at cutting alcohol harm, deaths and disease.

Drinkers in the North East are more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of drinking alcohol than people in Wales, with 2,927 people admitted to hospital per 100,000 people in the North East (LAPE - alcohol related hospital admissions using the “broad” measure) compared to 1,743 in Wales .

And people in the North East are also more likely to suffer an alcohol-related death than someone living in Wales, with 57.1 people per 100,000 in the North East compared to 52.6 people in Wales.

The figures come on top of evidence published today (28 Feb 2020) from the University of Sheffield and Association of Directors of Public Health that 8,000 lives across the North of England including nearly 2,000 in the North East could be saved over the next 20 years if a minimum unit price for alcohol was introduced in England.

The North East has the most to gain from the introduction of a 50p MUP, as it experiences the country’s highest rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions and that high risk drinkers would cut consumption by a staggering equivalent of 18 bottles of vodka a year.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, commented: “These figures beg a question: why is our Government not doing more to protect vulnerable people in the North of England from alcohol harm, when the problem is being taken seriously in Scotland and now in Wales.

“The North East experiences some of the worst alcohol-related harms in England, costing our region over £1bn a year and creating significant health inequalities.

“MUP will help the communities most in need, saving lives, cutting crime and reducing pressure on our over-stretched emergency services. While no single measure offers a magic bullet, MUP is one of the most effective interventions on alcohol we have at our fingertips. It will get to the heart of the problem by raising the price of the cheapest, strongest drinks. It is targeted and based on strong evidence, and won’t affect moderate drinkers or the price of a pint in the pub.

“This vital research from Sheffield University shows the stark difference MUP will make – it is too important for decision-makers to ignore.”

The figures are released in the same week as a landmark review by Sir Michael Marmot shows how life expectancy in England has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and is actually falling among the poorest people in some areas including the North East. It shows that the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy and the amount of time people spend in poor health has gone up across England since 2010.

In the North East, key findings from the research show that with the introduction of a 50p MUP:
• An estimated 1,970 deaths attributable to alcohol would be prevented over the next 20 years
• Alcohol consumption would fall by 7.7% in the region, with by far the biggest reductions coming amongst the heaviest drinkers. Every year high risk drinkers would cut their consumption by the equivalent of around 18 bottles of vodka a year, while the average moderate drinker would reduce their drinking by less than half a bottle of vodka a year
• Alcohol attributable hospital admissions would fall by an estimated 3,255, reducing the pressure on the NHS, with people from the poorest communities seeing the biggest falls
• The criminal justice system would also benefit with 4,380 fewer alcohol-related crimes a year
• Researchers estimate that the cost savings to the NHS in the North East alone would amount to £8.5m a year

The research also looked at the impact of MUP across the North as a whole and found that almost half of the deaths and hospital admissions prevented and 39% of the crimes avoided would come from the three Northern regions – the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) has welcomed the research, with Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and ADPH Alcohol Policy Lead, commenting:

“This research provides the most detailed picture yet of the effect of MUP in parts of England. Risky drinkers in England consume more than two-thirds of all the alcohol sold and evidence shows a strong link between consumption and affordability. A measure like MUP will have the biggest impact on the heaviest at-risk drinkers, while leaving the average moderate drinker virtually untouched.

“It would also have a huge impact in the North East, which has some of the highest levels of alcohol harm in the country, with rates of alcohol attributable hospital admissions being higher in many places than those found in Wales, where MUP is scheduled to be introduced next week.

“It would play an important role in reducing health inequalities, including by closing the health gap between North and South. This is a measure whose time has come and it should be introduced in England without delay.”

North Tyneside mum Joanne Good, whose daughter Megan died in her sleep after drinking strong white cider at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, is backing the calls to introduce MUP in England.

Joanne Good, said: “Minimum Unit Pricing needs to be brought in to raise the price of cheap alcohol products and help the young and the vulnerable. I lost my beautiful daughter Megan after a New Year’s Eve house party where she had drunk cheap white cider so I have experienced first-hand the tragedy strong, cheap alcohol can bring about.

“We’ve been campaigning hard in the hope that it will bring about change and another family will be saved from having to go through what we have been through.

“The new Government has an opportunity to follow the example of Scotland and Wales and introduce a minimum unit price here in England too. It makes total sense – the cheapest alcohol is causing the most harm and minimum unit price targets the cheapest drinks.”