The price of alcohol
Sir, – As the week begins with reports of heavy fines for hospitals that fail to cut waiting lists and the large numbers of patients in emergency departments on trolleys, it is important to note that more than 1,500 hospital beds every night are taken up as a result of alcohol consumption.
This bed utilisation due to alcohol is a serious and unsustainable burden on the Irish health system and puts enormous pressure on emergency departments and all types of hospitals. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he will bring the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.
This Bill is an important step in addressing Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol and can introduce initiatives, such as minimum unit pricing for alcohol, that are proven to save lives and reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
Evaluations carried out by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group demonstrated introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol of €1 would reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in Ireland by 8.8 per cent, would reduce the number of deaths due to alcohol by 197 and hospitals admissions would decrease by 5,878 per year.
Achieving these outcomes would transform access to the health services for every citizen and reduce the alarming harm being done to men, women and children in Ireland by alcohol.
I would urge the public to support the Minister for Health and the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. – Yours, etc,
Prof FRANK MURRAY,
of Physicians of Ireland,
South Frederick Street,
Irish Times 16 September 2015