Alcohol Change UK welcomes Public Accounts Committee Report

May 2023 | 7 minutes

Alcohol Change UK responds to the Public Accounts Committee Report into alcohol treatment services.

Commenting on the report, Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said:

We very much welcome the new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into alcohol treatment services.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that more people are dying from alcohol-specific causes than at any time before, and the current rates of death are the highest on record. This is totally unacceptable and yet inevitable, given the increases in drinking we’re seeing among heavier drinkers, and the ongoing issues around the pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol.

That’s why we wholeheartedly agree with the statements and recommendations in the PAC report, the first of which reads: “We are concerned that the Department is not taking alcohol harm sufficiently seriously.”

Our evidence to the committee earlier this year highlighted the many difficulties that the alcohol treatment sector faces. It’s now time for the government to step in and take action to save lives.

We are in particular agreement with the committee’s recommendation to look at alcohol harm more holistically, seeing measures around price, availability and marketing as important pieces of the puzzle to reduce alcohol harm. These prevention measures, in line with better world-class treatment services, will help to ensure the recent increase in alcohol harm is taken seriously and does not ignore the significant number of lives being lost. We agree with PAC’s conclusion that an Alcohol Strategy is needed to bring these elements together to ensure a joined-up approach.

The report also highlights the lack of knowledge in the Department for Health and Social Care about the costs of alcohol harm to the NHS and wider society. It is well-known that the current figures are significantly out-of-date and it is vital for the government to do another full estimate of the scale of alcohol harm because it is likely that the real costs are rising. Therefore, it is important to have accurate information if the government is to understand and tackle the huge and varied scale of alcohol harm in our society.

We agree that it is also vitally important that funding for drug and alcohol services is more certain so that local authorities can better plan treatments for those in need. The report highlights that 82% of dependent drinkers are not in treatment and that more needs to be done to remove the barriers that people face in receiving treatment, and for individuals and health care professionals to learn to spot the early signs of harmful drinking.

We hope that the Department for Health and Social Care takes the action that’s needed to take these recommendations forward, especially the PAC’s call to take alcohol harm more seriously, and work with the committee, experts and charities in this field to make progress on these vital areas of work to help people live happier and healthier lives.