Doctors and medical students decided not to back a call to ban the sale of alcohol at petrol stations after hearing a lively debate.
The proposal to separate drinking and driving was supported by Leicestershire retired consultant anaesthetist Geoffrey Lewis. He pointed out that cirrhosis of the liver was now being seen among people in their late 20s.
Dr Lewis maintained: ‘Excessive alcohol is a problem in this country. It must be remedied.’
Liverpool foundation 1 doctor Latifa Patel said that in 2010 there were more than a million hospital admissions from alcohol-related illnesses, compared with less than half a million a decade ago.
‘We are constantly reminded that our NHS is financially unsustainable, that our NHS does not have the resources to cope with current admissions. Why then, why are we not acting now?’ she asked.
Dr Patel called for minimum alcohol pricing and some constraint on irresponsible alcohol sales. She insisted: ‘We must recognise the importance of prevention in this alcohol-related catastrophe.’
But Hull GP Andrew Green argued that a ban on selling alcohol at petrol stations could harm rural areas.He said: ‘Villages used to have a combination of a pub, a shop, a post office and a garage.Now many of these have shut or merged and often the village shop has pumps on its forecourt or the garage sells groceries and papers as well as food.’
He said that, even with this arrangement, profits were slim as petrol overheads were high and there was wastage from fruit and vegetables.
Dr Green maintained: ‘If you force these amalgamated services to split again they will simply go under and as usual it will be old and the poor in our villages who will suffer.’
‘Failed responsibility agreements’
London core trainee 2 in general medicine Helen Grote added that addressing garage outlets would not necessarily stop people drinking alcohol.
She said: ‘It is perfectly possible to drive to your local supermarket, fill up the boot of your car with booze and then go to the adjacent petrol station and fill your car with petrol.’
The meeting did, however, call on the government to abandon the failed ‘responsibility agreements’ that rely on the drinks industry to promote responsible drinking.
It also called on the BMA to raise awareness of the risks related to drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the increased incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome.