Alcohol deaths must be a ‘wake-up call’ for the Government, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 7 December 2021

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has today published data on alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2020. The findings show that deaths caused by alcohol in 2020 increased by almost 19% on 2019, making this the largest annual increase in alcohol-related deaths since 2001.

Responding to the data, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, said:

“The shocking statistic that deaths caused by alcohol rose by nearly a fifth in 2020 must be a wake-up call for the Government to prioritise plans that tackle drinking.

“These deaths were clearly linked to a surge in alcohol consumption during the pandemic. Sadly, they are yet another example of the unacceptable health inequalities that exist in the UK, as 33% of the deaths since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 occurred in the most deprived 20% of the population.

“It must never be forgotten that behind these statistics are real people who have tragically lost their lives to drinking. Under no circumstances should these deaths be seen as inevitable.

“The government can and must do more to tackle drinking. We need the government to introduce regulations to limit alcohol advertising and to ensure that alcohol products are labelled consistently.

“The increased affordability of alcohol is a known driver of consumption, so controlling the price per unit is key. The BMA has repeatedly called for an increase in duty on all alcohol products by at least 2% above the rate of inflation. The Association has also urged the government follow Scotland’s lead by implementing a minimum pricing unit of at least 50p in England, which has been shown to effectively reduce alcohol sales.

“The cumulative effect of increasingly affordable alcohol, marketing, and cuts to public health budgets, means that more people are now dying of alcohol consumption. More people are also struggling with alcohol problems, often with little to no support. It is absolutely critical that the Government acts quickly to fund and resource high quality services and treatment for people suffering from alcohol problems, to allow them to reduce their consumption or stop drinking altogether.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.