The shocking cost of town’s booze problem revealed

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THE true costs of Hartlepool’s alcohol abuse have today been revealed.

New figures show it costs our economy a staggering £42m a year – the equivalent of £462 for every man, woman and child in the town.

The stark statistics were revealed by the North-East alcohol awareness group Balance, which conducted research throughout the region.

Campaigners at Balance lay much of the blame for the problems on the easy availability of ultra-cheap drink. The figures come at a time when public consultation on a possible minimum price for alcohol in the country is expected to get underway soon.

Balance campaigners also worked out the specific cost of boozing to the Hartlepool economy. It showed;

19,281 sick days are taken due to alcohol by workers in Hartlepool each year. It is costing the town’s workplaces £13.57m annually;

Alcohol misuse in town is costing the NHS £9.73m in treatment bills;

Alcohol-related crime and licensing costs £14.56m;

The cost to social services of dealing with boozing is £4.3m in town.

Balance research also shows there were 9,812 recorded alcohol-related crimes in Hartlepool.

Louise Wallace, director of public health for Hartlepool, said: “Excessive alcohol use can cause serious harm to a person’s health and in some cases can also have a negative impact on their friends and family.

“The cost of alcohol is an issue and therefore we welcome the forthcoming consultation on the introduction of a minimum unit price.”

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “These figures demonstrate the real cost of cheap alcohol on every aspect of our society - it is essentially affecting everyone in some capacity. At a time when we are looking for economic growth. It is extremely frustrating that alcohol is costing our businesses and the wider economy.

“Alcohol is also continuing to impact heavily on our public services. We have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in the North East with the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment and nearly half of our crime is alcohol-related.

“Price is a significant factor in this. Supermarkets are currently selling products such as strong white cider for just 19p per unit in the North East, with alcohol sometimes being sold cheaper than water.

“However it costs all of us to deal with the consequences. Clearing up the harm caused by the wide availability of cheap alcohol is costing every taxpayer in the North East the equivalent of £887 ever year.”

Mr Shevills said: “A key to the solution is the introduction of a minimum unit price, which the Government has backed and is set to consult on later this month. It’s a targeted measure which will increase the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol – traditionally purchased by younger and heavier drinkers.

“Under a minimum 50p per unit, which is recommended by experts such as the British Medical Association, moderate drinkers would spend just 28p extra per week on alcohol, saving thousands of lives and preventing tens of thousands of instances of crimes.”

Alcohol specialist nurse Helen Clay at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “With the availability of cheap alcohol, we are seeing more people putting their health at risk.

“Alcohol is becoming one of the leading causes of health problems, placing an ever increasing pressure on the health service. We’re seeing more and more people being treated for illnesses and injuries related to alcohol.

“We’re trying to reduce the number of alcohol related admissions by providing support to the ward staff, raising awareness of these patients’ needs and providing advice and support to reduce the risk of them returning to hospital.”

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