Alcohol, Hospital Admissions and Minimum Pricing

The Government is in the process of carrying out a public consultation on a minimum price per unit for alcohol. This is set to be 45p per unit. This consultation runs until 6 February 2013. The Government said implementation of a min price would lead to an estimated reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a reduction in 24,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year after ten years.

In Cornwall, just under a quarter of the over 16 population of Cornwall & Isles of Scilly (102,000 people) regularly drink above recommended safe levels of alcohol. In addition, 66,500 people are ‘binge drinkers’ (drinking more than double the daily unit guidelines in one session). However, the majority of drinkers do so without harm to themselves, their friends and families, and the community as a whole. I should also say this is not a lecture on drinking either.This blog is on the effects alcohol has on services, like the NHS  which includes hospital admissions. And should a min price be implemented?

Those aged 18 and under, the good news is hospital admission rates are failing from 100 per 100,00 in 2004/05 – 2006/07, to now 60 per 100,00 for the period 2008/09 – 2010/11. For the latter period, the main causes on admission were found to be: mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (71%)  and Ethanol poisoning (29%).

Sadly, for all ages, hospital admissions are on the rise for both male and females. In 2006/7 it was 350 per 100,000 people, but now it is at the 450 per 100,000.  It also shows males are admitted more than females. The main causes of alcohol specific admissions were: mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (64%); alcoholic liver disease (18%) and ethanol poisoning (15%).

The age band with the highest frequency of admissions for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol is 40-49 years and for ethanol poisoning it is also 40-49 years, with a secondary peak at age 20-29 years. The age band with the highest frequency of admissions due to alcoholic liver disease is 60-69 years. That last figure is hardly surprising if you have been drinking heavily for that long.

The death rates are also pause for thought and have risen slightly in Cornwall & IoS over recent years for both males and females. Both have been below national rates although the rate of female mortality is now close to the England rate. In 2008-10, 159 deaths in Cornwall and IoS were from conditions wholly due to alcohol.

The question is will a minimum price per unit really change the culture of drinking in this country? My fear it will not, because drink is so engrained in our culture. But what else can we, or should we do?  The issue is so serious, reducing alcohol-related harm has been identified as a priority by Cornwall’s Health and Well Being Board. And the alcohol strategy for Cornwall has been refreshed during 2012. Its main aims are to:

  • enable people to make informed choices about alcohol
  • increase services to reduce harm caused by alcohol
  • create partnerships to reduce alcohol’s impact on the community

I have only covered the effects on hospital admission, but what about the impact on other resources like Policing? It all adds up. What is your view on the min price? Do you think it will work?

Data taken from Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee Alcohol-related hospital admissions Report: 8th Jan 2013



  • Gill Martin

    I do not believe that the minimum price will prevent those
    that choose to binge drink from doing so, anymore than raising the
    price of tobacco would prevent those that do so from smoking. I
    personally only drink on rare occasions so it will not affect me
    but for those who drink regularly and moderately it is just
    penalising them for the irresponsibility of others.

  • I am obviously no expert Andy but I can only see it causing more problems. The government are always whining about the costs to the NHS but surely the revenue from alcohol far exceeds these costs. I couldn’t find any recent figures but apparently duty and VAT on alcohol in 2009 raised £14.6bn. This is without any tax the government received from pub/shop profits. So surely if alcohol sales go down then so will the taxes received by the government. The main problem that I can see with minimum pricing is that surely all of the companies that produce the cheap alcohol will go out of business but the premium end of the market will excel. Nobody is going to buy Kestrel, Skol or Hofmeister (Do these brands still exist??) if Peroni is the same price. The other problem that I can see is that if alcoholics can’t afford to buy there daily booze then surely they will turn to crime to fund themselves just like drug users have for many years. Anyway, I am off to buy shares in Peroni and get some more homebrew on. Cheers.

  • I agree that those who wish to binge drink will find the money somehow while the rest of us ‘sensible’ drinkers will just be screed more. As to hospital admissions as a result of alcohol (and I’ve seen a lot of that!) my opinion has always been that they should a) use more of the “town tents” idea where drunks are put safely to sleep it off and b) if they do get to hospital and are not in life-threatening condition they should go to the back of the queue whilst really ill people are treated and c) if they cause a nuisance whilst they’re there then it’s ‘out you go!’. Let’s start making people have to face up to the consequences of choices THEY make!

  • Beware the Ides of Somerset

    The flaw with minimum alcohol pricing is that the extra money from any minimum pricing goes to…..the retailer (usually big supermarket chains).

    If tax or duty was raised then the extra paid is available for the NHS & Police etc.

    BUT (2011 stats):

    – 53% of a £5 bottle of wine today is tax, as is £3 on a £7 bottle, give or take 2p. The average retail spend is just £4.47 a bottle (57% tax now).

    – The UK now has the highest duty on wine in Europe.

    Will West Country cider makers and moderate drinkers on a tight family budget or low/moderate wage be penalised by minimum alcohol pricing?

    What happens to the bottle of wine in a typical £10 Meal Deal as a treat for hard-pressed families at the end of a working week?

  • Hilda Dent

    Firstly alcohol related illnesses such as liver disease,cancers of gut,diabetes,heart disease,obesity,mental disabilities need to be named on death certificates.

    Secondly Town and Country planning require to have an alcohol limiting framework,whereby many alternatives are presented from an early age to children and young people,whereby they can find fulfilment and enrichment of their lives,such as guiding and scouting movements, science projects for the young.Where knitting,tapestry,sewing,car maintenance ,woodwork,music making are offered in a social setting,not evening school.

    Young people like to be part of a group or gang,so this needs to be tapped into,not under the guise of learning,but of fun.

    Early miscreants require sharp,shock therapy,with application of aversion means, so they don’t progress to hospital admission.

    Of those addicts taking up expensive hospital beds,where possible they should be sent to detox and rehab centres,with stringent rules,that over rule mollycoddling.
    For the seriously addicted who are very I’ll,they will have to remain in hospital.

    Not enough is done to stop the addiction occurring and developing.There is too much pussyfooting and lethargy around,with inadequate notice taken of the alcohol and drug abuse commissioning officers viewpoint.

    I suspect Human Rights are a cover for wringing ones hands and doing nothing to prevent alcoholism. In the same way that disturbed folk can be sectioned,we need to ensure our young people are prevented from pursuing their addictions,by similar sectioning.

    Further ,prisons are no place for alcoholics.These people need kindly,but extremely firm treatment and programmes of initiation into an alcohol and drug free life.

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