UK: Doctors Call For Higher Alcohol Prices To Reduce NHS Burden

As the National Health Services (NHS) battles the COVID-19 crisis, a group of doctors has called for higher alcohol prices to reduce the burden of alcohol harm on the UK healthcare system.

An open letter signed by around 100 medics and public health professionals is asking the government to consider emergency measures to reduce the strain on the health service during the pandemic.

One of the measures suggested is implementing minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol. MUP is known to tackle at-high-risk alcohol use in the population which puts a severe burden on the health care system and specifically emergency services.

In Scotland where MUP is implemented since 2018, early results show that the policy has substantially cut alcohol use in the country. Analysis of the effects of MUP shows that the highest consuming households reduced their alcohol use the most.

The UK could significantly benefit from a reduction of alcohol consumption, considering the massive burden it causes the healthcare system. Data suggest that in the UK:

  • In 2018, 1.3 million people were admitted to hospitals because of alcohol, representing 7.4% of all hospital admissions across the country.
  • The number of people admitted to hospital because of alcohol has risen by 60%. This number has risen year on year for a decade.

Therefore, implementing MUP can help tackle the UK alcohol problem fast enough and reduce the burden on the NHS, which will be crucial in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other measures included in the open letter to reduce the burden on the NHS are as follows:

  • Tackling air pollution,
  • Providing remote support for smokers to quit while in self-isolation, and
  • Lowering speed limits as a way to curb the number of serious traffic accidents.

The group has stressed the need to reduce baseline demand for NHS acute services, on top of limiting the spread of the virus and scaling up critical care capacity. The above measures were chosen for their quick effectiveness in reducing the burden of NHS and its emergency department.

We all must do everything we can to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 epidemic while also rapidly scaling up hospital capacity.

At the same time, we need to not miss opportunities to reduce the demands on NHS emergency services through implementing policies which we know work to keep people safe and out of overstretched hospitals,” said Dr Rob Hughes, a clinical research fellow at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as per, Independent.