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Doctors warn PM to ‘stand by his word’ on minimum alcohol pricing

Doctors have urged the Government to stand firm on its commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, amidst reports that it may now drop plans.

The minimum price plans were revealed in the Government’s alcohol strategy published last March after lobbying from the BMA and other medical groups.

But newspapers have reported today that ministers are divided over a proposed 45p minimum unit price, after under heavy lobbying from drinks companies.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said he was ‘very concerned’ about the reports.

He told Pulse: ‘The Prime Minister had been right to propose this and he should stand by his word and ensure the coalition delivers on a policy that could save thousands of lives.’

‘There was a campaign against banning smoking in public places but the Government was right then to implement that proposal. They should do the same now with minimum pricing of alcohol. It is only one small step but is very important and would make a big difference in our battle against the impact of alcohol on society as a whole.’

Former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes and a member of the House of Commons Health Committee, also urged the Government to change its mind, saying it would undermine public health.

She said: ‘We all know that public health measures taken would be undermined if we didn’t see a very sensible proportionate public health measures that the Government can do.

‘I think the medical profession needs to send a very clear message that actually we are fed up with watching our patients die from alcohol-related liver disease, the devastation that it is wreaking on their families and communities across the UK, the impact that it is having on GP resources. I think that this is the time for the medical profession to actually hold the Government to account.’

Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: ‘Since the Government announced its proposals in March [last year], the evidence for MUP has strengthened and the support-base for this crucial policy has widened. We have now seen real-life results from Canada that indicate a 10% increase in the minimum price of some drinks led to a 33% decrease in wholly alcohol related deaths.’

Click here to read an opinion piece by Dr Sarah Wollaston