Leading healthcare organisations including the BMA and the RCN have warned the government about the impact alcohol is having on the nation’s health.
In the letter to Public Health Minister Seema Kennedy MP, the signatories warn of the ‘escalating risk to public health’, saying that since 2014/15, the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions each year has increased by over 100,000, ‘a worryingly high increase of 8%’, and that despite this, fewer people are accessing treatment even though evidence shows that it is effective for an increasing proportion of people.
‘Alcohol is a drug that causes physical and social harm. All nurses, not just those who work in public health, know it is a false economy to cut funding programmes that prevent ill-health as a result of alcohol abuse,’ said Helen Donovan, RCN Professional Lead for Public Health.
‘The Minister for Public Health must be aware of the risks involved if public health strategy doesn’t incorporate alcohol which is why the RCN supports this letter but we remain concerned the next Prime Minister intends to change the Government’s stance drastically which may invalidate any strategic planning. Until long-term planning replaces short-term policy decisions, the preventative agenda will struggle to succeed.’
The letter warns that despite recent strategies for obesity and tobacco, there has been a ‘lack of strategic focus’ on alcohol. The signatories have asked the Government to prioritise alcohol in the same manner and works to urgently produce an updated national alcohol strategy to tackle this escalating risk to public health.
‘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 daily basis,’ said BMA board of science chair, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar. ‘As well as the more obvious physical toll and the link to serious conditions such as cancer and liver cirrhosis, the impact that excess alcohol consumption can have on mental health and personal life can often be devastating. ‘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.