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Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

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Taking a stand against alcohol harm

Gateshead council, health experts and emergency services have joined together to tackle the harm caused by drinking too much alcohol in the region.

Cabinet members agreed to sign up to the ‘Local Government Declaration on Alcohol’ in a show of commitment to act at a local level to lessen the damage caused by alcohol within our communities.

The signing comes as the borough continues to suffer some of the worst rates of alcohol harm in the England with the North East topping the tables for the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions[1] as well as the second highest rate of alcohol related deaths for men[2].

Councillor Catherine Donovan, Gateshead Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “The harm caused by alcohol is extensive and impacts on a raft of frontline services, from the NHS, to the Police, to GPs, to the Ambulance and Fire Services, to Social Services, as well as the workplace. This is not a problem of a small minority but the entire population.”

“The signing of this Declaration is a regional initiative that signals our aim to work collaboratively with other local authorities and services to reduce alcohol harm and health inequalities in across the region.”

The latest annual report by the Gateshead Director of Public Health highlighted the problems caused by alcohol in the borough. The report recommended that the council should make a visible commitment to reduce the harm associated with alcohol, and support the sign-up to a Local Government Declaration.

The total cost of alcohol-related harm in Gateshead is £82.98 million per year, with a cost to every resident of Gateshead of £433.

One in four of the Gateshead adult population is estimated to be drinking at increasing and higher risk levels. Hospital admissions due to alcohol-related cancer and alcoholic liver diseases have increased by over 50% in the past 10 years. There are an estimated 13,500 dependent drinkers in Gateshead.

Carole Wood, Gateshead Director of Public Health, said: “The way people use alcohol is surrounded by complex social issues. However, we must highlight alcohol as one of the most important public health problems we face today, with rising levels of harm linked to increased levels of drinking over the past few decades. Only by working together will we be able to turn this around.”

The Declaration has received backing from the Association of North East Councils, the North East Clinical Networks, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the region’s three Police and Crime Commissioners.

Gateshead Chief Inspector Stephen Ammari said: “Alcohol can be a contributing factor to crime and anti-social behaviour and we’re committed to working with our partner agencies to ensure Gateshead remains a safer place.”

Ian Renwick, Chief Executive of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said: “At least a third of all A&E attendances are alcohol-related. This doubles again at weekends. Patients who are drunk can be very difficult to treat. They can take longer to assess and their behaviour can be erratic. At times we have to call the Police.”

Geoff Hagon, Gateshead District Manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue, said: “Alcohol is implicated in many fires started both deliberately and accidentally such as people trying to cook when under the influence of alcohol. This causes an unnecessary pressure to the fire and rescue service alongside the personal loss that is felt by the people who experience the fire.”

Mark Dornan, Assistant Clinical Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group said, “GP’s are seeing an alarming increase in the number of patients presenting with long term health problems caused by too much alcohol, from heart and liver diseases to alcohol dependency and depression to name a few.”

An annual survey by Balance shows that the North East public wants change. It has revealed:

  • More than 1 in 3 people feel there are too many places selling alcohol in the region
  • Almost half of North Easterners support minimum unit pricing.
  • 7 in 10 support for a ban on TV alcohol advertising before the watershed.

The Declaration will ensure a consistent and collaborative approach across a number of different agencies to tackle alcohol harm in the region, in turn helping to secure the health, welfare, economic and environmental benefits that come with reducing excessive alcohol consumption.

The commitments set out in the Declaration include:

  • Promoting the introduction of greater regulations around the price, promotion and availability of alcohol.
  • Calling for changes to the Licensing Act in favour of local authorities and communities, to enable greater control on the number, density and availability of alcohol according to local requirements.
  • Developing evidence-based strategies and commissioning plans with local communities and partners.
  • Putting public health and community safety at the forefront of public policy-making about alcohol.
  • Making best use of existing licensing powers to ensure effective management of the night-time economy.
  • Raising awareness of the harm caused by alcohol to individuals and our communities.

The Declaration has been led by Gateshead Council with the support of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, to help its development into a region-wide statement of intent supported by local councils.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, added: “Alcohol continues to be a scourge on society and the North East feels that burden more so than many other parts of country. We need widespread change to tackle alcohol harm and the best way to do that is with a unified and joined up approach so it is fantastic to see organisations embracing evidence-based partnership working.

“We know there is an appetite for change here in the North East and the Declaration will ensure partners come together to stand in line on a range of measures that address the price, promotion and availability of alcohol to help alleviate the concerns of North Easterners.”