The Government’s alcohol strategy needs to address the high levels of drinking across the population and the associated damage to health, and not focus purely on binge drinking, the BMA has said.
In response to the House of Commons health committee’s report on the Government’s Alcohol Strategy for England, the BMA said the high level of alcohol consumption across the population placed a huge burden on the NHS and should be given sufficient attention alongside the need to curb binge drinking.
The BMA said it endorsed the Government’s aims to tackle the price and availability of alcohol, but agreed with the health committee that wider health issues associated with drinking needed much more attention. It said the issue could be tackled with the introduction of a minimum price per unit of at least 50p and higher taxation, improved labelling and reduced licensing hours.
The BMA also criticised the close ties between the Government and the alcohol industry, claiming there was a ‘conflict of interests’.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s director of professional activities, said: ‘The scale of alcohol consumption in England causes significant medical, psychological and social harm and places a huge burden on the NHS. This is not caused by binge drinkers alone, but is a result of the high level of consumption across the population. Alcohol misuse in England is a complex issue and there is no single answer.
‘The BMA is particularly concerned about the role the alcohol industry has in the Government’s strategy. There is a clear conflict of interest here. While the alcohol industry has a role to play, this should be in implementing regulations, not having a voice in what they should be.’