15 Feb 2012

David Cameron targets alcohol ‘scandal’

David Cameron is vowing to take on the “scandal” of public drunkenness and alcohol abuse that costs the NHS £2.7bn a year.

Man holding four beer glasses in two hands (Getty)

On a visit to a hospital, the prime minister will insist that bars, supermarkets and the drinks industry must help ensure responsible drinking becomes more than “just a slogan”.

He will hit out at the “reckless” behaviour of an “irresponsible” minority and cite figures suggesting the alcohol-related costs to society as a whole are between £17 and £22bn a year.

Mr Cameron will call for “innovative” solutions and raise the prospect of “drunk tanks”, which are widely used in Europe and the US.

Downing Street said there were 200,000 hospital admissions in 2010/11 with alcohol as the primary factor.

Meeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and police in the north east of England today, Mr Cameron will say: “Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse, and the problem is getting worse.

Read more: Boozing Britain - calling time on cheap alcohol

“Over the last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people – many under-age – who think it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime.

“This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it.

“As figures today show the NHS is having to pick up an ever-growing bill – £2.7bn a year, including £1bn on accident and emergency services alone. That’s money we have to spend because of the reckless behaviour of an irresponsible minority.”

Mr Cameron will say the government will set out how it intends to help emergency services “rise to the challenge” in a forthcoming Alcohol Strategy.

“Whether it’s the police officers in A&E that have been deployed in some hospitals, the booze buses in Soho and Norwich, or the drunk tanks used abroad, we need innovative solutions to confront the rising tide of unacceptable behaviour,” he will go on.

“This isn’t just about more rules and regulation. It’s about responsibility and a sense of respect for others.

“This is an area where the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs need to work with government so that responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan.”


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