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Leading representatives from the alcohol harm reduction, children's, homelessness and religious sectors have today called for action on the harm done by cheap alcohol.
43 organisations and experts have written to the Chancellor calling on him to implement targeted measures such as a minimum unit price for alcohol and increased taxes on high strength white cider, to lower the burden of cheap alcohol on our most vulnerable groups, our NHS and public services, and the economy.
Their call comes in response to a report released today by Public Health England, which finds that raising the price of the cheapest alcohol products is the most powerful tool at the Government's disposal to tackle the harm done by the cheapest alcohol.
The report, published in the Lancet, explains that alcohol is the leading cause of ill health, early death and disability amongst 15-49 year olds in England, and results in 167,000 years of working life lost. The report estimates the annual cost of alcohol harm to the UK in 2016 to be between 1.3% and 2.7% of GDP, which equates to £27billion and £52billion.
In October 2016, a review of alcohol prices by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK found an abundance of cheap, high strength drinks across the UK. Researchers were able to find products like high strength white ciders, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, available for as little as 16p per unit. This means that for the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket it is possible to buy almost seven and a half litres of high strength white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
Last month, a study found that, in England alone, the introduction of a 50p minimum unit price could reduce alcohol deaths by around 7,200, and reduce healthcare costs by £1.2 billion over 20 years.
Responding to the Public Health England report, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said:
"This report provides yet more evidence of the effectiveness of raising the price of the cheapest alcohol to tackle alcohol-related harm.
Increased duty on the cheapest drinks, alongside minimum unit pricing, would make a real difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable groups and ease the burden on our health service. These measures would also lower the burden of premature mortality due to alcohol, thereby increasing economic output.
At the same time, ordinary drinkers will not be penalised. Minimum unit pricing will leave pub prices untouched, and tax on the cheapest, strongest drinks will be targeted at those drinks which are preferentially consumed by harmful and dependent drinkers".
For further information, please contact Matt Chorley, the AHA's Policy and Communications Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0203 075 1726.
MPs have called for improved support for the hundreds of people living with illnesses derived from contaminated blood transfusions.
Voting in the House of Commons last week, MPs backed a call for funds to be used from the sale of Plasma Resources UK, a sum of £230 million.
The MPs also expressed concern at government plans to hand the management of the support scheme in England to the private sector.
In a vote backed by members of all parties, MPs stated that the "contaminated blood scandal was one of the biggest treatment disasters in the history of the NHS."
The government says it has already taken new steps to help those affected. There is to be a new payment of £3,500 a year for those newly diagnosed with stage 1 hepatitis C linked to contaminated blood.
But MPs voted that this was "not commensurate with the pain and suffering caused," calling for help for bereaved families. And they called for recipients to have the choice of taking lump sum compensation.
Introducing the debate, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, Diana Johnson, said: "Although we are all agreed on the need for a reformed scheme, I cannot agree with the Department of Health that its proposed settlement is sufficient."
Ms Johnson told MPs about Glen Wilkinson, diagnosed with hepatitis C after a dental procedure at the age of 19. She said: "He has had to live with the virus all his life and is still waiting for proper recognition of how it has affected him. I hope that the Minister and the Government will now work to ensure that Glen and others can live the rest of their lives in dignity."
Former Conservative health minister Alistair Burt raised the issue of people co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C. He said some 250 remain alive out of 1,200. Mr Burt said: "This is a collective shame, because Government after Government have not grasped that this just needs a final settlement. We can find the money for other things."
Health minister Nicola Blackwood rejected calls for a public inquiry, claiming it would not provide further information. She said: "I believe it is right that the Government’s focus is on considering how best to create and implement a system with the increased budget that is affordable, that redesigns the inconsistencies that we have heard about, and supports those most affected by these tragic events now and into the future."
ALCOHOL will cause around 135,000 cancer deaths over the next 20 years and will cost the NHS an estimated £2 billion in treatments, according to estimates from a new report* by Sheffield University, commissioned by Cancer Research UK**.
The new figures, published today reveal that by 2035 the UK could see around 7,100 cancer deaths every year that are associated with alcohol. Of the cancer types included in the report, oesophageal cancer is set to see the largest increase, followed by bowel cancer, mouth and throat cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer***.
The report also forecasts that there will be over 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer over the 20 year period, which will cost the NHS £100 million, on average, every year.
The results were based on analyses that assume alcohol drinking trends will follow those seen over the last 40 years, and takes recent falls in alcohol consumption, including among young people, into account****.
Evidence suggests that the more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of cancer. UK government guidelines, published earlier this year, advise that both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
The latest figures follow a Cancer Research UK study published earlier in the year that showed 9 in 10 people are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer *****.
The report also examined the impact of introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in England. It found that over 20 years a 50p minimum price per units of alcohol could reduce deaths linked to alcohol by around 7,200, including around 670 cancer deaths. It would also reduce healthcare costs by £1.3 billion. This follows a recent court decision in Scotland which found that a minimum unit price would not break European law.
Alison Cox, the Director of Prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: "These new figures reveal the devastating impact alcohol will have over the coming years. That's why it's hugely important the public are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and what they can do to improve their risk. If we are to change the nation's drinking habits and try to mitigate the impact alcohol will have then national health campaigns are needed to provide clear information about the health risks of drinking alcohol."
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: "These latest figures show the serious consequences for individuals, the NHS and society if the UK government continues to ignore the consequences of the nation's drinking. In particular they reinforce the need for a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol. It is clear from the report that MUP will save lives, including those lost to cancer, and ease the burden on our health service. Importantly, MUP will do this while leaving moderate drinkers and prices in pubs and bars unaffected.
In addition, we need mandatory health information on the labels of all alcoholic products, informing the public of the link between alcohol and cancer, and the new low-risk drinking guidelines.
The public have the right to know about how their drinking impacts their health, so that they are empowered to make informed choices."
* The report –'Alcohol and Cancer Trends: Intervention Scenarios'– is available upon request from the cancer research UK press office.
** Alcohol trends were estimated across the whole population for England in 2015-2035. Using a scenario that incorporates both the recent shifts in consumption alongside longer-term trends, the average consumption is estimated to be 14.6 units/week and the abstention rate 20.7%.
Scenario in 20 years with no change (baseline)
Health outcomes: mortality
All deaths from alcohol-related conditions - 12,778
All deaths from alcohol-related cancers - 7,097
Oesophageal cancer - 3,674
Other head and neck cancer - 887
Colorectal cancer - 1369
Liver cancer - 333
Breast cancer - 835
**** Smoking drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014: Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2015. http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17879.
*****Based on figures from a Cancer Research UK commissioned report 'An investigation of public knowledge of the link between alcohol and cancer', 2016.
For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org .
The theme for the week for this year is Know The Risks and will focus on a different topic each day:
• Monday 14th November – Alcohol and cancer
• Tuesday 15th November – Alcohol and depression
• Wednesday 16th November – Alcohol and dementia
• Thursday 17th November – Alcohol and breast cancer
• Friday 18th November – Alcohol and diabetes
• Saturday 19th November - Alcohol and hypertension
• Sunday 20th November – Alcohol and brain damage
Alcohol Concern have an e-book available on their website ready for people to download, as well as some infographics. It includes information on the week and is available > here.
The hashtag for the week is #AAW2016.
Please do promote within your networks if possible. The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) as always are happy to support any work being doing throughout the week and should any assistance be required please contact Laura McLeod, Policy and Advocacy Manager - Alcohol Health Alliance at LMcLeod@alcoholconcern.org.uk or by telephone on: 0203 815 8930.
Alcoholic hepatitis remains a difficult condition to treat with conflicting evidence as to its best management.
The recent STOPAH trial results have had a mixed reception among the gastroenterology and hepatology community and there is a variation in clinical management across the country. We would like to document this variation and determine how to improve care for this group of patients.
This short survey will take 5 minutes of your time.
To participate in the survey click > HERE.
Thank you for your time.
Dr Ashwin Dhanda, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
Dr Stephen Atkinson, MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow, Imperial College London
Prof Mark Thursz, Professor of Hepatology, Imperial College NHS Trust
Responding to the ruling made today in the Scottish courts in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
"We welcome this court ruling, and hope to see minimum unit pricing speedily implemented in Scotland. Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal.
Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day.
MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers. Recent AHA research has found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.
MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda."
For more information visit the AHA website > here.
Research released today shows there is an abundance of high strength alcohol sold for pocket money prices in shops and supermarkets across the UK.
A review of alcohol prices in a range of retailers found products like high strength white ciders, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, available for as little as 16p per unit.
This means that for the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket it is possible to buy almost seven and a half litres of high strength white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
The findings are released today in a report by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) (Download Cheap alcohol the price we pay AHA Oct 2016.pdf), a group of medical royal colleges, alcohol organisations and health bodies. The report argues that recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow supermarkets to sell alcohol at rock bottom prices, but have done little to benefit pubs and their customers.
Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), leading liver doctor and former President of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said:
"In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. Harmful drinkers and children are still choosing the cheapest products: predominantly white cider and cheap vodka."
"We need to make excessively cheap alcohol less affordable through the tax system, including an increase in cider duty. It's not right that high strength white cider is taxed at a third of the rate for strong beer."
"In addition, we need minimum unit pricing. This would target the cheap, high strength products drunk by harmful drinkers whilst barely affecting moderate drinkers, and it would leave pub prices untouched. In fact, pubs could benefit from minimum unit pricing, as it would prevent the proliferation of cheap alcohol in our supermarkets."
"It's time the government took action and made all high strength alcohol less attractive to vulnerable drinkers."
Each year there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than one million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England and Government figures estimate that alcohol harm costs UK society more than £21billion.
The report, Cheap alcohol: the price we pay, warns that, unless action is taken on the availability of cheap alcohol, harms associated with alcohol consumption will continue to rise, increasing the burden on the NHS and public services.
For further information, please contact Matt Chorley, the AHA's Policy and Communications Officer, at email@example.com or on 0203 075 1726.