ALCOHOL: Tackle pricing without delay

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We are writing to welcome a judgement by the UK Supreme Court which will stop alcohol being sold at pocket-money prices in Scotland.

We hope that in time it could have massive benefits for the health of people in the North East.

This judgement rejects a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association and has cleared the way for Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland.

This is a victory for democracy and for health, and paves the way for the introduction of this life-saving policy around the rest of the UK.

Alcohol is 60 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980 and it is too easy for people to drink at levels that can result in early death.

The cheapest, strongest alcohol is favoured by young people and dependent drinkers, and it is the poorest people in our communities who suffer the worst harms.

Alcohol costs the North East around £1billion a year, including £209million in healthcare costs and £331million in crime and disorder.

Stopping the flow of cheap alcohol will save lives, reduce hospital admissions, cut crime, reduce the burden on emergency services and help pubs in Scotland.

We now need to ensure that England is not left behind as Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have committed to introducing Minimum Unit Pricing.

In England over the last decade, alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 64 per cent, and 23,500 people in England die each year from alcohol-related causes.

Here, in the North East, we suffer some of the worst rates of alcohol-related deaths in the country.

We urge the Westminster Government to take responsibility and prioritise tackling deprivation and health inequalities by introducing MUP without delay.

A failure to do so will cost lives and increase the burden on an already over-stretched NHS and police workforce.

Colin Shevills, Director, Balance

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and North East Director of Public Health lead for alcohol

Dr Guy Pilkington, Clinical Chairman, Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group and Chairman of the Prevention Board for the North East of England

Dame Vera Baird, Barry Coppinger and Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioners for Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham

Dr Steven Masson, Consultant Hepatologist and liver specialist, Newcastle Hospitals