PM To Tackle Drink Abuse 'Scandal'

15 February 2012, 08:34 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

David Cameron will vow to take on the "scandal" of public drunkenness and alcohol abuse that costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year on a visit to the North East.

The Prime Minister's visiting a hospital in the region later where he'll insist that bars, supermarkets and the drinks industry must help ensure responsible drinking becomes more than "just a slogan".

He will hit out at the "reckless" behaviour of an "irresponsible" minority and cite figures suggesting the alcohol-related costs to society as a whole are between £17 and £22 billion a year.

And in the North East alone, figures show alcohol-related deaths have tripled in the last 20 years.

Last year, 469 people died because of booze - that's up from 170 in 1991 and an increase of 183%.

Mr Cameron will call for "innovative" solutions and raise the prospect of "drunk tanks", which are widely used in Europe and the US.

Downing Street said there were 200,000 hospital admissions in 2010/11 with alcohol as the primary factor.

The Prime Minister's announcement will include plans for:
* 'Drunk tank' cells where those deemed incapable of walking home would be sent by police to sleep it off;
* Use of 'booze buses' which pick up drunken party-goers and take them to the cells
* Police deployed in accident and emergency wards to prevent drunken violence
* Paramedics to be sent into nightclubs to treat drunken patients on the spot to ease the burden on the NHS.

Meeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and police in the North East Mr Cameron will say:
"Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse, and the problem 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 in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime.

This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it.

As figures today show the NHS is having to pick up an ever-growing bill - £2.7bn a year, including £1bn on accident and emergency services alone. That's money we have to spend because of the reckless behaviour of an irresponsible minority."

Mr Cameron's expected to announce the Government will set out how it intends to help emergency services "rise to the challenge" in a forthcoming Alcohol Strategy.