In a White Paper set out today, the government has announced that health and care services will work more closely together under plans to reform the NHS in England.
The changes outlined will enable the swift introduction of key obesity strategy policies such as changes to front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme and mandatory alcohol calorie labelling, following consultation. However, measures to tackle alcohol harm beyond this have not been included in the plans.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “The White Paper released by the Government today promises great strides forward in tackling obesity. As is pointed out in the paper, obesity is on the rise, but it must not be forgotten that alcohol harm is also spiralling out of control and has serious consequences for individuals, families and communities across the country.
“We are already paying much too high a price for alcohol harm and this appears to have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of at-risk drinkers has almost doubled since the start of the first lockdown and more than 5,000 alcohol-specific deaths were registered between January and September 2020 – up 16% on the same months in 2019.
“Tackling the fragmentation of the NHS resulting from the 2012 reforms gives an opportunity to join up alcohol treatment services that have sunk to an all-time low, while at the same time targeting prevention. As a next step, the Government must urgently introduce an alcohol strategy to combat alcohol harm and improve access to treatment for those who need it. We can no longer afford to overlook this gaping hole in public health policy.”