Posted on Thursday 13 July 2017
New figures released today by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, reveal the estimated cost for alcohol harm to Gateshead hitting front line public services and employers with a staggering bill of around £80.6 million in 2015/16.
High alcohol consumption is taking its toll on taxpayers and businesses every year through hospital admissions, crime and disorder, sickness, absenteeism and lost productivity among staff working for Gateshead employers, and in social services support for families affected by alcohol issues.
These figures would equate to £401 for every man, woman and child in Gateshead.
In 2015/16 alcohol was estimated to have cost Gateshead:
- £16.7 million in NHS and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and also treatment for alcohol dependency.
- £26.3 million in crime and disorder, including 4,300 cases of criminal damage, 9,800 cases of theft and 1,200 cases of violence against the person.
- £28.4 million lost to local businesses and employers through absenteeism, lost productivity and alcohol related deaths, including 44,500 days off due to alcohol.
- £9.2 million in costs to children and adults’ social services and substance misuse services.
Colin Shevills, Director at Balance, said: “All of us are paying dearly for alcohol misuse, whether people drink or not. High alcohol consumption wrecks families, impacts on workplaces and is a drain on the NHS and police at a time when they are coping with huge budget pressures.
“Meanwhile alcohol is promoted around the clock on TV, billboards and social media, and sold too cheaply through cut price deals in supermarkets and convenience stores, especially in poorer areas where people suffer the worst ill health.
“What is needed now is action at national level to put health and public services above the interests of major alcohol corporations.
"Pricing alcohol by its strength and increasing tax on the type of strong cheap white cider popular with street drinkers and teenagers would save lives and reduce the burden on our front line services.”
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead, said: “The financial burden presented here is stark. However, we must not ‘gloss over’ the huge financial burden that these figures represent, without considering the harm to lives, families, and communities that lie beneath. This harm is particularly stark amongst the most vulnerable in our society, who, though they may not drink the most, experience the most harm. Across Gateshead we are seeking to use a range of different methods to address the availability, accessibility, affordability and attitudes to alcohol, to reduce the burden of harm on our population and in turn, our public services.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC, said: "The cost of alcohol misuse to our society is enormous. It contributes to crime, unwelcome behaviours and can cause people to find themselves in very vulnerable, dangerous situations. I will continue to lobby and challenge the Government, partners and the industry to drive culture change. We need to ensure anyone who needs support gets it and to see an end to cheap alcohol sales - it's time for change."
These figures show alcohol is costing us more than it is generating. An evidence review of the public health burden of alcohol published by Public Health England in December 2016 estimated the annual cost of alcohol to the UK to be between 1.3% and 2.7% of annual GDP - between £27 billion and £52 billion in 2016. In comparison, tax and duty on alcohol generate around £10bn to the exchequer each year.