Poor coordination between Whitehall departments hampers campaign against alcohol misuse

August 5, 2009 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Alcohol misuse is a significant and growing problem in England, according to a new report from MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee said there are more than 10 million people now regularly drinking above the guidelines set by Government.

Alcohol misuse costs the National Health Service (NHS) an estimated £2.7 billion per year.

In 2006-07, there were some 811,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions, representing a 71% increase in four years.

Between 12 and 5am on weekend nights, nearly three-quarters of all attendances at accident and emergency (A&E) departments are alcohol-related.

Last year the Department of Health introduced a number of new measures designed to help address alcohol harm: providing extra funding for GPs to screen new patients; increasing alcohol-specific training for doctors, and creating 20 pilot sites designed to improve specialist treatment services.The Committee said the Department has “yet to demonstrate its ability to effectively influence local commissioners, the drinks industry, and people’s drinking behaviour.

“The Department also needs to work more closely with the other government departments which are responsible for policies affecting alcohol consumption, such as taxation and licensing.”

Edward Leigh, Chairman of the Committee, said:

“Too many people are drinking too much.

“In England, nearly a third of all men and a fifth of all women are regularly drinking more than the official guidelines say they should. In doing so, many are on course to damaging their health and general well-being.

“The burden on local health services is of course huge, with the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions climbing sharply and A&E departments flooded on weekend nights with drink-associated injury cases.

“The responsibility for addressing alcohol harm has been handed to the Primary Care Trusts.

“But many have neither drawn up strategies to tackle alcohol harm in their areas nor even have much idea what they are spending on the relevant local services.

“These services are often ill-coordinated, increasing the risk that dependent drinkers, after immediate medical care, will simply relapse into their former drinking habits.

“Each PCT should have to demonstrate what progress it has made towards reducing the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in its area.

“None of this is helped by poor coordination between Whitehall departments on such relevant matters as licensing, taxation and glass sizes.

“The Department of Health should look across all departments, identify all the initiatives and policy areas bearing on alcohol misuse and determine the extent to which each is helping or hindering the Department’s objectives.

“Where the latter are being stymied, the Department should communicate its concerns to senior officials in the relevant departments.”

Click here to read the report.


Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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