Home   Contact Phil 

Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  

Hear about the latest on this site at Twitter ...
Phil on
Posterous ...    Phil's blog on the CPL Training website ...

        The politics of drinking

February 16, 2012



Binge Britain – Cameron sends in the tanks

The words ‘drunk tank’ conjure up conflicting emotions for me. I think of Fairytale of New York and get all warm Christmassy feelings. Then I think of poor Kirsty MacColl, oh why did she have to die?

I don’t know whether it’s the same for David Cameron. He’s suggesting drunk tanks as one of the “innovative solutions” that will deal with the “scandal” of “alcohol abuse”.

For all I know he has in mind the kind of tanks that have big guns on the front. That’ll keep the binge-drinking rabble under control.

If he means police cells, the police have always taken it upon themselves to put up drunks for the night. It’s one of their more positive contributions to society. So I’m not getting the innovation here.

Anyway, I hear our prime minister is passionate about the drink problem, a problem he says is “getting worse”. “Over the last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people – many under-age – who think it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public.”

This is curious since everything seems to suggest this problem probably peaked about 10 years ago and has been getting better ever since. This time last year the BBC reported that “heavy drinking is falling, abstinence is rising, and young people are leading the drive towards healthier drinking”.

The Downing Street press release also refers to “an ever-growing bill to the NHS which currently stands at £2.7bn a year”. It quotes a figure of “200,000 hospital admissions with a primary alcohol-related diagnosis”.

This, too, is strange. As I’ve reported the NHS is planning to change the way it calculates alcohol-related hospital admissions, narrowing them down to those that are directly attributable rather than taking in dubious ‘partly attributable’ cases.

The government seems to have taken this on board by using the 200,000 figure rather than use the 1.1 million you will have seen bandied about.

So why hasn’t it adjusted the cost to the NHS accordingly? The £2.7bn estimate appears in a 2008 Department of Health study and it’s based on both directly attributable and partly attributable admissions. It’s a complicated calculation, but there’s no doubt that removing the latter it will greatly reduce the estimated cost – and the impact of Cameron’s mission.

Not that I’m suggesting David Cameron is trying to distract attention from the plight of the economy and the controversy over his health service reforms by blaming alcohol. How could you imagine such a thing?

Back to diary archive




Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil