alcohol strategy
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The BMA and medical Royal Colleges have asked the government to prioritise a new alcohol strategy, expressing concerns over the impact of alcohol on public health.

In a letter to public health minister Seema Kennedy, The BMA board of science chair and the heads of the eight Royal Colleges noted the escalating risk to public health.

“Since 2014-15, the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions each year has increased by over 100,000, a worryingly high increase of 8 percent. Despite this, fewer people are accessing treatment even though evidence shows that it is effective for an increasing proportion of people,” the letter reads.

They sought a strategic focus on alcohol, similar to the recent strategies for obesity and tobacco.

“We therefore ask that the Government prioritises alcohol in the same manner and works to urgently produce an updated and ambitious national alcohol strategy to tackle this escalating risk to public health.”

Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, added that the country is witnessing a “dangerous trend” of rising hospital admissions and alcohol specific-deaths alongside less people seeking treatment or help.

She attributed the cumulative effect of increasingly affordable alcohol, marketing and cuts to public health budgets for this.

“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,” she said.

“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.

Commenting on the letter, Martin Narey, chairman of the Portman Group, the trade group of the alcoholic drinks producers, called on the government to work with the industry to address ‘problem drinking’.

“Partnerships between the industry and government have helped to ensure that the vast majority of the population choose to drink responsibly, with a 15 percent fall in alcohol consumption since 2004, as well as ongoing declines in underage drinking, alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour across the UK,” he said.

“However it is important to recognise that there is a minority of drinkers, 4 percent, who drink at very harmful levels and the Portman Group believes that the Government needs to work with industry to help target this minority through tailored interventions.”