Does where we drink impact levels of alcohol-related violence?
A new report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has found that the proportion of alcohol-related violence did not fall as much as expected when the on-trade was closed during the pandemic.
Report co-author Dr Carly Lightowlers from the University of Liverpool said: ‘While alcohol-related violence fell when many bars and pubs closed during lockdown, alcohol sold in off-trade sites like supermarkets and off-licences remained a crucial driver of violent incidents – including domestic violence.’
These findings suggest that attempts to address alcohol-related violence must also look at off-trade alcohol availability, especially policies that target alcohol-related domestic violence. This could include measures to reform the licensing system.
You can listen back to the latest IAS podcast, where the authors discuss their new study, or join Lucy Bryant and Dr Carly Lightowlers at a forthcoming webinar on 18 September, where they will be presenting their results and taking part in a Q&A session.
Calls for action as alcohol-related deaths rise in Scotland
Last month, National Records of Scotland (NRS) released its annual report on alcohol-specific deaths, revealing that 1,276 people tragically died as a direct result of alcohol in 2022.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive at With You, has written about the important of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in preventing harm to the whole population over a longer period, but highights that those already dependent on alcohol will need more urgent help. Phipps has called for alcohol-specific deaths to be addressed with the same determination as the National Drugs Mission, and proposed the introduction of national standards for alcohol treatment to ensure that high-quality, evidence-based support is available when and where it is needed.
Dr Alastair Macgilchrist, chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) spoke to Sangita Myska on LBC about the narrowing gap in alcohol-specific deaths among women and men, and what factors might be affecting this.
The Scottish government’s programme for 2023/2024, published earlier this month, includes a commitment to publish a report on five years on MUP alongside a consultation on its future, both in terms of price and the continuation of the scheme. They also plan to undertake a review of the alcohol marketing consultation, with responses to be published by the end of the year. Other alcohol-related commitments include increasing access to residential rehab, the development of a protocol for co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use, and the co-production of alcohol and drug service standards for young people.
Alcohol care team in Nottingham successfully cutting hospital admissions
Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s (NUH) nurse-led alcohol care team (ACT) was set up in 2021, and has helped more than 2,500 patients with advice and specialist assessments in its first full year. The service says this support has equated to 472 hospital bed-days freed up for other patients.
In addition to advice and support, the ACT liaises with community services – working in both the emergency department and with inpatients at the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) and City Hospital. Patients are referred to the team if it is suspected that they are dependent on drugs or alcohol, or if they have a high drug or alcohol intake. After an assessment, the team can prescribe anti-craving medication and work with the patient to provide advice and education while in hospital, and refers patients to the most suitable service for support when they are discharged.
Clinical lead for the service Alan Davis, said: ‘Drugs and alcohol are often a symptom of a bigger problem. The first time we see a patient can have the biggest impact on them. It’s not just about treating the dependence on alcohol but trying to help with the things in people’s lives that have led to harmful drinking.’
New report on the state of the family support sector
Adfam have launched a new research report examining current circumstances and practice in supporting families affected by substance use.
The survey attracted responses from 108 family workers, service managers and others from across the UK, with every region represented. 63% of respondents worked as part of an integrated drug and alcohol service, and 28% described their service as providing standalone family support.
Despite the report coming in the wake of Dame Carol Black’s review of drugs, and the government’s ‘from harm to hope’ drugs strategy which committed over £400 million to the drug treatment sector, survey responses suggest that very little of the new funding appears to be making its way through to family services. Only 8% of respondents were aware that their organisation had received any additional money to use for family and carer work. At the same time, 90% of respondents reported an increase in their workload.
Read the full report from Adfam.
Is public opinion a barrier to public health policies?
A new briefing paper exploring tobacco, alcohol, obesity and gambling policy from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has been published, reviewing polling evidence and interviews with policymakers involved with implementing major public health policies.
Key findings suggest that public opinion does not appear to be the main obstacle to interventionist public health policies, with advertising restrictions and policies to benefit children particularly popular. Taxes tend to be relatively unpopular, although public health taxes are viewed more favourably than other forms.
Expert interviews suggest that resistance from the media, industry and party colleagues is a bigger barrier than voter opposition, meaning that politicians seeking to take action on public health need to be prepared for a long-term project, requiring political capital and stamina.
SMF suggests two strategic approaches politicians might take:
- Building ‘scoreboard momentum’: carefully picking battles, proposing measures that are likely to pas and consolidating.
- ‘Two steps forward, one step back’: recognising almost anything proposed will meet resistance, taking a maximalist approach fighting on multiple fronts, expecting to lose on some.
Off-trade alcohol availability and violence: The impact of on-trade closures
Institute of Alcohol Studies
18 September 2023, 3–4pm
Supporting LGBTQ+ people to navigate alcohol issues, avoid alcohol problems, and access alcohol support
Alcohol Change UK
21 September 2023, 10am–1pm
Change Grow Live conference fringe events: How can a national drug strategy reduce health inequalities in your local community?
3 October 2023, 8–9am
The Rolls Suite, Midlands Hotel, Manchester
10 October 2023, 8–9am
Albert 5, Hilton Hotel, Liverpool
Turning Point conference fringe events: How can a national drug strategy reduce health inequalities in your local community?
2 October 2023, 11am–12.30pm
The Exchange, 3 New York Street, Manchester
9 October 2023, 11am–12.30pm
Venue TBC, Liverpool
Reaching out: Helping services to engage with the most vulnerable drinkers
Alcohol Change UK
18 and 19 October 2023
President’s conference: Inequalities in healthcare – What do we know and what can we do?
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
16 November 2023
MCA annual symposium on alcohol and health
Medical Council on Alcohol
22 November 2023
Royal College of Physicians London, NW1 4LE
Meet the members
Every month, we speak to a member of the AHA to find out more about what they do and how their organisation is working to end alcohol harm.
Today we meet Carrie Reidinger, who has been at the British Medical Association (BMA) for two years.
How does your organisation help to reduce alcohol harm?
The BMA has published several reports, including one with recommendations for government to tackle alcohol related harm in England, and another on the responsibilities of healthcare professionals and policy makers to improve the prevention, diagnosis and management of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The BMA also responds to alcohol-related consultations to ensure that our recommendations are heard.
More recently, new policy on alcohol and drink driving was passed at the 2023 BMA annual representative meeting. This will allow further resources to be dedicated to campaigning for the motion, including to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to the European standard, to educate the public on the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to remind doctors of current professional guidelines relating to driving and health, and to improve services for alcohol and drug treatment. We are currently in the scoping phase of this project and are excited to see how we can best take it forward.
What inspires you most in your job?
I am inspired by the importance of the work done at the BMA, which is carried forward by colleagues and members alike, and how our lobbying can improve the professional and personal lives of doctors and, by proxy, patients and the wider public. This can be related to protection and pay in the workplace, ethical issues, drug and alcohol harm, and social determinants of health and public health services.
What change do you think would make the biggest difference in reducing alcohol harm? For alcohol harm to be reduced, a change in attitude and culture amongst the public and policy makers is needed, alongside tangible policy change, such as lowering the legal drink-driving limit. Drinking is part of the culture in the UK and the harm and cost that we can see to individuals and the NHS through, for example, liver disease and road traffic accidents, are not yet recognised as potentially avoidable. Public health education campaigns (delivered independently of industry) and ensuring marketing and labelling is clear on the harms of alcohol may help to provide this culture shift.