Northern Ireland

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Doctors call for minimum unit pricing on alcohol

Doctors' leaders have renewed their call for action on alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland, calling the current consumption levels "worrying".

BMA Northern Ireland met yesterday with representatives from the NI Alcohol and Drug Alliance, the "DASH" - Drug and Alcohol Support Hub and Alcohol Action Ireland. Doctors heard how total consumption levels across Northern Ireland have fallen slightly but still pose a serious problem, particularly among women and older people. Overall consumption rates do not reflect the full picture of the level of alcohol related harm, and there has been an almost doubling of the number of alcohol-only admissions to emergency departments in Northern Ireland from 7127 in 2005 to 11,420 in 2015.*

Dr Paul Darragh, chair of British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland’s Public Health Forum said: “In advance of alcohol awareness week we can see that alcohol consumption remains alarmingly high in Northern Ireland and is a major contributor to long-term health related problems and premature deaths. It is estimated that alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland costs around £900-million a year in health, policing and justice spending.

"We believe that more could be done to reduce alcohol related harm. The introduction of minimum unit pricing – which will now be going ahead in Scotland – is a significant step that could be taken to help achieve this.

"The affordability of alcohol has increased significantly over the past 25 years, and BMA believes that a minimum price per unit of alcohol should be set at no less than 50 pence per unit.

"This minimum price should also be kept under review to ensure that alcohol does not become more affordable over time. A unit based pricing system impacts most on the cost of the strongest alcoholic drinks, i.e. those which contain the most alcohol by volume. 

"There needs to be fundamental shift in consumption patterns to tackle alcohol related harm and an ever increasing body of evidence demonstrates that minimum unit pricing will make a significant contribution toward achieving that goal."

A minimum unit price (MUP) sets a floor that prevents particularly strong alcoholic drinks being sold cheaply. Research shows that cheaper alcohol tends to be bought by those who regularly drink more than the recommend drinking guidelines. A MUP policy targets the drinkers causing most harm to themselves and society.

For further information please contact:

BMA Northern Ireland, 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB
028 9026 9666   (switchboard)
028 9026 9672   (direct line)
074 0880 9519   (mobile / out of hours)
Email: [email protected] 
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