Raising cost of alcohol to 70p a unit could save lives in South Tyneside, say health chiefs

Raising the cost of alcohol prices using tough new rules could save lives, NHS chiefs in South Tyneside have said.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 1:14 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 1:51 pm
Picture c/o PA

Figures for the borough show it continues to have the highest rates in the region for alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions, well ahead of the national average for England.

The call for the government to force shops to hike price tags has come as the first year of a new scheme in Scotland prompted a slump in sales north of the border.

“[Minimum unit pricing] targets the most harmful drinkers in our community and probably saves lives,” said Dr David Hambleton, chief executive at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

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“It’s a while since Scotland implemented minimum pricing and we said let’s lobby for 50p a unit because that will get it done.

“But the higher you get the more lives you will save and locally we were keen to say ‘look at the benefit you get if you go to 70p’.

“This is not a magic solution and there’s a lot of reasons people misuse alcohol and you have to get to the root causes, but there’s still a lot you can do.”

Dr Hambleton signalled his backing for pricing rules at a meeting of the CCG.

Minimum unit pricing was introduced in Scotland in May 2018, targeting low-cost, high-strength products, such as cider, by setting a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

NHS research found over 12 months the volume of pure alcohol sold per person dropped from 7.4 to 7.1 litres, while in England sales rose by a similar proportion.

The latest data for Public Health England shows South Tyneside tops all six of its ‘indicators’ for alcohol misuse in the North East, including hospital admissions and alcohol-related deaths.

Last year ‘alarming’ findings showed 94 children in the borough were taken to hospital with illnesses directly linked to excessive drinking, between April 2015 and March 2018.

This equated to a rate of 106 per 100,000 people, more than triple the English average and almost double that of the North East’s.

The Government estimates alcohol misuse costs the NHS about £3.5billion each year.