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MPs back minimum pricing of alcohol

By Nigel Praities

An influential committee of MPs has backed the medical profession's call for minimum pricing of alcohol, and better treatment of alcohol addiction.

A House of Commons Health Committee report published today criticises Government policy on alcohol as ‘ineffectual' and too aligned with the interests of the drinks industry, despite mounting health and social problems caused by alcohol abuse in the UK.

It recommends minimum prices based on the percentage of alcohol in drinks and restrictions on the advertising of alcohol as ways of making the public drink less.

The report also says alcohol misuse had a ‘big effect' on GP workload and called for the detection and provision of brief interventions on alcohol misuse to be included in QOF and a 'stepped programme of care' for those with alcohol addiction problems.

Calls from the BMA, the Royal College of Physicians and the Chief Medical Officer for minimum pricing for alcohol have so far been dismissed by the Government, but the parliamentary report will put it under more pressure to reconsider its position.

Chair of the committee Kevin Barron MP, said: ‘I agree with the Chief Medical Officer that introducing unit pricing will reduce binge drinking.'

‘The facts about alcohol misuse are shocking. Successive governments have failed to tackle the problem and it is now time for bold government,' he said.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, commented that the report reflected many of the concerns the BMA had already highlighted and said the Government needed to ‘wake up'.

‘At a time when the NHS is facing cuts, it is shocking that every year millions of pounds are spent treating patients for the illness and violence that goes hand in hand with alcohol misuse,' she said.

‘A reduction in alcohol misuse would free these valuable resources for other life-prolonging treatment.'

MPs have backed minimum pricing of alcohol

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