New research from the Flinders University shows that the Northern Territory alcohol policy reforms have led to a reduction in ICU admissions related to alcohol intoxication.

Under the Northern Territory (NT) Government’s “Alcohol Harm Minimization Action Plan” several reforms came into force in 2018 to reduce the high alcohol harm in NT, Australia.

These reforms include:

  1. a minimum unit price for alcohol,
  2. the introduction of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspection Officers, and
  3. a Banned Alcohol Users Register.

The reforms were based on recommendations from the Riley Review for an integrated alcohol harm reduction framework.

Movendi International reported in 2020, after over a year since the reforms came into force, the policies led to reduced alcohol related assaults and lower emergency department presentations.

Findings from a new study by researchers of Flinders University, published in the journal Anaestesia and Intensive Care, now show the positive change from the policies have sustained over time.

The study analyzed 1,323 Alice Springs Hospital ICU admissions, 622 in the 12 months before the policies were introduced and 701 after. Findings include:

  • A 38% relative reduction in alcohol-related hospital Intensive Care Unit admissions.
  • A reduced proportion of admissions associated with alcohol intoxication between the pre-reforms and post-reforms phases (18.8% versus 11.7%). This was true for both acute (10.6% versus 3.6%) and chronic (13.3% versus 9.6%) intoxication.

While the ICU data can not check if a person admitted due to a car accident was related to someone’s else’s alcohol use, the study found that,

  • The rate of trauma-related admissions, such as injuries sustained in a car accident and personal injuries and violence reduced from 10.5% of total ICU admissions to less than 5%.

A doctor at the Alice Springs Hospital’s ICU, Dr. Paul Secombe, welcomed the new findings as a sign that the reforms are working.

As a health care professional we see so much harm and so much morbidity associated with alcohol, that to see any reduction, for us is a good news story.”

Dr. Paul Secombe, Alice Springs Hospital

Dr. John Boffa, from the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition is in agreement, as per ABC News.

… this is very, very important and significant early data, showing a significant impact of the alcohol reforms.”

Dr. John Boffa, People’s Alcohol Action Coalition

According to Dr. Boffa, further studies analyzing different sources of data such as police data, admission to women’s shelters, child protection data, school attendance and the number of child welfare reports, can provide a robust picture of the impact of the alcohol policy reforms in NT.


ABC News: “Alcohol-related admissions at Alice Springs Hospital dropped sharply after introduction of alcohol policies, study finds

Medical Xpress: “Alcohol policies reduce ICU admissions