Hidden costs of excess drinking are a growing cause for concern

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Health experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the levels of alcohol being consumed in homes across north Northumberland.

New figures show that alcohol is costing Northumberland over £120m each year, including 63,998 alcohol-related sick days which equates to over £6.5m.

Colin Shevills, director at Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “We’ve seen a noticeable increase in the cost to the workplace and the wider economy, and this is in addition to the millions of pounds that continue to burden our health service, our police forces and our communities. Alcohol truly is affecting every aspect of our society. This can’t continue.

“Cheap alcohol that is too available and too heavily promoted is a fundamental factor in the damage we see and more needs to be done to reduce the alcohol harms that the region is forced to deal with on a daily basis.”

He is pushing for the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol, as the Scottish Government is currently planning.

“The region’s three police forces, the health community, publicans and the majority of the public support a minimum unit price for alcohol,” he said.

“A minimum unit price will save thousands of lives, reduce hospital admissions, drastically cutting crime and save hundreds of thousands of working days lost through absenteeism.

“As the evidence base continues to grow, we need Government to put it back on the agenda to form part of a package of measures which will tackle alcohol on a national, regional and local level.”

Councillor Susan Dungworth, the policy board member for adult care and public health at Northumberland County Council, added: “There is a lot of reliance upon alcohol and we, in Northumberland, would like to support a minimum unit price for alcohol.

“There is consistent evidence that to limit the availability of alcohol through a minimum unit price will lead to a reduction in consumption, and, in turn reductions in alcohol related harm.”

“The effect of a minimum unit price will be to reduce harms associated with alcohol, which include the number and associated costs of alcohol related crimes, alcohol related health problems and deaths.

“Hopefully this will add to our well-being and help to promote our healthy lifestyle choices.”

The figures released by Balance reveal that alcohol is costing Northumberland’s workplace and wider economy £54.2m annually.

There were also 1,125 potential working years of life lost to alcohol-related premature mortality – which works out at over £31m.

The total cost of alcohol in Northumberland now stands at an estimated £120.22m each year.

The full cost breakdown shows that in 2011/12:

· Alcohol misuse cost the NHS £31.53m.

· Alcohol-related crime and licensing cost £27.01m. In this period there were an estimated 13,449 recorded alcohol-related crimes in the region.

· £8.39m was spent by the local authority on social services involving alcohol.

· Alcohol cost the workplace and wider economy £54.2m.

On a national scale, alcohol misuse costs society around £21.3bn each year - £4.1bn to the NHS, £6.9bn caused by crime and licensing, £8.9bn in costs to the workplace and wider economy and £1.7bn on social services for families.

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