Government 'failing to tackle impact of alcohol on health', MPs warn

Government alcohol policies focus too much on public order issues and not enough on the 'insidious' impact of alcohol on health, according to MPs.

The House of Commons health select committee said that the government must do more to combat the pervasive effects of alcohol misuse on health.

Around 3% of the NHS annual budget is spent on alcohol-related conditions, and deaths from liver disease are predicted to double in 20 years.

In a report, the committee supported the move to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, but stressed that the setting of that price must not be a one-off event and the level must be monitored.

The report asked the alcohol industry to acknowledge the power of its advertisements and accept responsibility for the effects adverts have on public attitudes towards alcohol.

The report said that serious consideration should be given to the possibility of banning alcohol advertising in cinemas, except when a film has an 18 certificate.

The committee said that Public Health England should commission a study into the adoption of some principles of the French policy on alcohol which allows the law to control advertising.

The report also argued that the establishment of alcohol specialist nurse services throughout the country would be the most effective form of early intervention in order to reduce the number of avoidable alcohol related hospital admissions.

Sir Ian Gilmore, RCP special adviser on alcohol, said he was disappointed with the government's report.

'I'd also like to see more done to tackle the growing problem of marketing through digital, online and social media,' he said.

Deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation Jo Webber added: 'What's really needed is for the government to set out its stall clearly as the NHS can't keep picking up the pieces.'

The British Liver Trust welcomed the committee's conclusions. 'The cost savings brought on by the employment of an alcohol specialist nurse is huge both in terms of cost-savings and the unprecedented benefits to patients and people affected by alcohol-related conditions,' the charity said.

The BMA also welcomed the report. 'The scale of alcohol consumption in England causes significant medical, psychological and social harm and places a huge burden on the NHS,' it said.

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