The Board received a report and presentation to seek views on how the introduction of alcohol minimum unit pricing can be supported.
It was reported that the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) sets a floor price for a unit of alcohol; it was also noted that this targets the cheapest alcohol most commonly consumed by the heaviest drinkers.
The Board were provided with an overview of key findings from MUP research which would indicate that in Gateshead:
· 174 deaths would be prevented over the next 20 years
· Alcohol related hospital admissions would reduce (thus reducing pressures on local NHS services)
· Crime rates would reduce due to fewer thefts, robberies, criminal damage and violence
· Areas of deprivation would benefit the most which will help reduce health inequalities
It was highlighted that there is no single solution to tackling alcohol related harm but that all independent evidence shows that the removal of the cheapest, strongest alcohol would have the greatest impact. It was further stated that following the introduction of MUP in Scotland, three litres of strong cider now costs no less than £11.25, the same bottle would currently cost £3.50 in England.
The Board were advised that the Health and Wellbeing Boards of South Tyneside and Sunderland have agreed to write to Central Government in support of the introduction of MUP; it was also stated that a number of MP’s have shown their support to the cause.
A comment was made stating that MUP was a targeted measure for the highest risk drinkers. It was also noted that the benefits to the NHS and the criminal justice system cannot be ignored.
A suggestion was made that Gateshead’s communications team could develop a campaign to target local traders as well as schools to increase awareness on the benefits of MUP. It was also asked whether there was evidence to suggest that heavy drinkers moved on to use other substances when MUP is introduced; it was stated that there is anecdotal evidence to suggest this does not happen.
The Board were advised that research is underway to look at implementing MUP at a local level using the Sustainable Communities Act; it was acknowledged that some counties such as the North West and Yorkshire are not prepared to explore this route yet.
Concern was noted that should MUP be introduced there would be a black market developed for cheap alcohol. It was acknowledged that this was a possibility but that research from Canada shows that this activity is minimal when compared to the overall impact on local rates of criminality.
A comment was made that alcohol abuse has a huge impact on the lives of individuals and families across Gateshead. It was also highlighted that this abuse contributes to the rising cost of social care. It was further stated that alcohol abuse during pregnancy is resulting in higher rates of children being born with foetal alcohol related conditions.
(i) The Board agreed to write to the Secretary of State to support the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing.
(ii) To research use of the Sustainable Communities Act to develop a localised approach to Minimum Unit Pricing.