While most people drink responsibly, alcohol misuse ruins thousands of lives in Birmingham and cost the city around £200 million last year.
As Birmingham launches a new alcohol strategy to tackle the health and social problems caused by alcohol misuse, figures from Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team show that 25 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in the city are drinking above safe limits.
The damage caused by alcohol misuse includes:
- At peak times, up to 70 per cent of all admissions to accident and emergency departments in Birmingham are related to alcohol;
- 3,600 incidents of domestic violence (around a third) are linked to alcohol misuse;
- Up to 170,000 working days are lost through alcohol-related absence, costing the city’s economy about £30 million each year;
- About 20,000 children in Birmingham are affected by parental alcohol problems;
- Marriages where there are alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce;
- In 2009, half of all 11 to 15-year-olds in the city had already had an alcoholic drink;
- Parental alcohol misuse has been identified as a factor in more than 500 child protection cases.
The Drug and Alcohol Action Team within NHS Birmingham and Solihull and Birmingham City Council’s Community Safety Partnership launched the city’s new four-year Alcohol Strategy today to address these issues.
Other partners who contributed to the development of the strategy included city council Children’s and Young People services, West Midlands Police, regulatory services, hospital trusts, alcohol charities and West Midlands Fire Service.
The strategy’s three key objectives are:
Promoting a safe and sensible approach to alcohol consumption –
- Maintain a range of alcohol services in hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, community settings, police stations and courts;
- Continue to focus on underage drinking in pubs and bars and underage sales of alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets, to ensure young people do not obtain alcohol illegally;
- Lobby for the implementation of a minimum unit price for alcohol.
Protecting families and the wider community from the adverse impact of alcohol –
- Continue to increase the effectiveness and availability of the alcohol treatment system for offenders;
- Establish a healthy workforce pilot programme for Birmingham’s main employers in orderto reduce alcohol-related absenteeism;
- Continue to develop services which protect young people from alcohol-related incidents and illnesses.
Reducing the impact of alcohol-related damage to people’s health –
- Further develop services which assist high risk groups including those from a hostel, homeless and student population;
- Develop specialist treatment provision for the relative, parents and carers of problem drinkers;
- Ensure alcohol services deliver family focused alcohol interventions.
The new strategy builds on work already undertaken by the partners, which has reduced anti-social behaviour incidents across the city by nearly half from 8,000 to 5,000 a month since November 2009.
Alcohol-related crime has dropped by 24.5 per cent in four years, while the number of alcohol-related deaths in Birmingham has reduced by 12 per cent from six years ago to 473 last year.
Max Vaughan, Alcohol Commissioning Manager at Birmingham’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said: “Working alongside our partners, we have made a great deal of progress in addressing the cost of alcohol misuse.
“However, much remains to be done. We are focussing on the three key areas where alcohol misuse is seen to make a significant impact – health; crime and community safety; and families and young people – to drive down these figures still further.”
Cllr Steve Bedser, Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Alcohol misuse ruins thousands of lives in Birmingham every year. With one in four men and almost one in five women drinking above the safe limits, both the human and financial costs of this problem are huge.
“But a lot of good work is being done across the city and, by working closely with our partners, we believe this new strategy helps us tackle an issue that impacts on so many lives.”
Jacqui Kennedy, Director of Regulation and Enforcement at Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham is an amazing city, and we work really well in partnership and this strategy is the result of that partnership effort. As a city we have delivered some excellent results but there is always more we can do and this strategy is fundamental in the delivery of a holistic approach to managing alcohol and reducing alcohol harm in our great city.”
New initiatives include a system currently being introduced by Birmingham’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team to increase the number of alcohol referrals by systematically sending out lists of patients admitted to hospital for alcohol-specific conditions to their GP, asking them to review and refer the individual to treatment services if necessary.
From the time when the patient starts treatment, the subsequent rate of future hospital admissions will be tracked to monitor effectiveness of the programme.