News release: Increasing number of alcohol-related deaths highlights urgent need for Government Alcohol Strategy

Maddy Lawson | February 2019 | 7 minutes

Alcohol caused nearly 6,000 deaths in England in 2017, 6% more deaths than in 2016, statistics published this week by NHS Digital have shown.

The release also shows that:

  • One person was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds with conditions related to alcohol in 2017
  • 6% fewer people accessed alcohol treatment in 2017 compared to 2016
  • Alcohol is now 64% more affordable than it was 30 years ago

Responding to the statistics, Conservative and Labour MPs have called on the Government to publish their long-awaited Alcohol Strategy as soon as possible, and to include recommendations from the Alcohol Charter.

The Charter has been endorsed by over 30 organisations across the drugs and alcohol sector, and sets out effective and workable policies to include in this new strategy. Policy recommendations include:

  • Introduce a 1% ‘treatment levy’ by increasing alcohol duties to generate additional funding for alcohol treatment services. This would equate to just 5p more for an average bottle of wine and 3p more for a pint of beer – yet would boost alcohol treatment budgets in England alone by 50%.
  • Address the needs of older alcohol drinkers by enforcing action against age inequalities in existing services and developing a range of specialist services to support older adults who drink. This is key, as the new statistics show that it is older adults who experience the greatest harm. In 2017, 78% of deaths due to alcohol were amongst those between 40 and 69 years of age.
  • Develop statutory minimum requirements for labelling alcohol products. This should include health warnings, ingredients and nutritional information alongside existing advice.
  • Introduce and enforce tighter restrictions on alcohol marketing via statutory regulation, independent of industry, with a particular emphasis on protecting young people from exposure to alcohol marketing.
  • Reduce the drink-driving Blood Alcohol Content limit to 50mg/100ml across the UK, in line with Scotland and most of Europe.

The Charter was produced by the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, in consultation with the Alcohol Health Alliance, Alcohol Change UK and the Institute for Alcohol Studies.

Since its launch and in the context of the growing body of evidence of alcohol harms, the Charter has received increasing cross-party parliamentary support, including from the former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP, shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP, and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP.

Mary Glindon MP, Co-Chair of the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group, said:

“Our Health Services are deluged with casualties caused by drink – latest NHS figures reveal a rate of one hospital admission every 30 seconds, with alcohol deaths up six per cent to a record high. Urgent action is needed to address this. We’ve presented the Government with an Alcohol Charter which they could – and should – adopt as their Strategy, without further delay.”

Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, said:

"The latest statistics released by the NHS confirm that the Government must act now to reduce alcohol harm. With 6% more deaths in 2017 than in 2016, yet 6% fewer people receiving treatment for alcohol problems, the promised alcohol strategy is more urgent than ever. The recent Alcohol Charter, put forward by charities and politicians from all parties, lays out policies which make financial sense - but more importantly would save lives."

Read the latest NHS Digital Statistics on Alcohol in full here.

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