SHOCK new figures reveal alcohol misuse is costing the Hartlepool economy a staggering £42m each year – including 16,000 booze-related sick days.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has released the figures and officials say alcohol is having an adverse affect on every aspect of society and say it “cannot continue”.
The shock figure is equivalent to £459 for every man, woman and child in Hartlepool and it has led to civic chiefs calling for the Government to introduce a national minimum unit price for alcohol as a “matter of urgency”.
Balance’s figures show the total cost of alcohol in Hartlepool now stands at an estimated £42.25m each year and the full cost breakdown shows that in 2011-12:
lAlcohol misuse cost the NHS £9.39m.
lAlcohol-related crime and licensing cost £14.02m. In this period there were an estimated 9,675 recorded alcohol-related crimes and officials say the cost involves assault victims receiving treatment for their injuries in A&E, for example.
l£4.23m was spent by Hartlepool Borough Council on social services cases involving alcohol.
lAlcohol is costing Hartlepool’s workplace and wider economy £15.33m every year and that includes 16,417 alcohol-related sick days worth almost £2m.
Officials say on top of that there were also 362 “potential working years of life” lost to booze-related premature deaths – which works out at almost £10m.
Colin Shevills, director at Balance, said: “We’ve seen a noticeable increase in the cost to the workplace and the wider economy, and this is in addition to the millions of pounds that continue to burden our health service, our police forces and our communities. Alcohol truly is affecting every aspect of our society. This can’t continue.
“Cheap alcohol that is too available and too heavily promoted is a fundamental factor in the damage we see and more needs to be done to reduce the alcohol harms that the region is forced to deal with on a daily basis.
“The region’s three police forces, the health community, publicans and the majority of the public here in the North-East support a minimum unit price for alcohol.
“A minimum unit price will save thousands of lives, reduce hospital admissions, drastically cutting crime and save hundreds of thousands of working days lost through absenteeism.
“As the evidence base continues to grow, we need Government to put it back on the agenda to form part of a package of measures which will tackle alcohol on a national, regional and local level.”
That plea for a minimum price of 50p per unit was backed up by Labour councillor Carl Richardson who is chairman of Hartlepool’s health and wellbeing board.
Coun Richardson said: “The Government’s decision last year to scrap plans to introduce minimum unit pricing of alcohol was extremely disappointing.
“Across the country, the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption – in terms of people’s health and the impact on society as a whole – is clear for all to see and we need the Government to introduce national minimum unit pricing of alcohol as a matter of urgency.”
Government ministers said at the time the policy would remain “under consideration” but Minister Jeremy Browne said there was not enough “concrete evidence” minimum pricing could reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking without hurting those who drank responsibly.
On a national scale, figures from Balance reveal alcohol misuse costs society around £21.3bn each year and that includes a cost of £4.1bn to the NHS, £6.9bn caused by crime and licensing, £8.9bm in costs to the workplace and wider economy and £1.7bn on social services for children and families affected by alcohol misuse.
Balance is the North-East of England’s alcohol office, the first of its kind in the UK, which aims to encourage people in the region to reduce how much alcohol they drink so they can live healthier lives in safer communities.
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