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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Committee report finds government not taking harms from alcohol seriously enough

Committee report finds government not taking harms from alcohol seriously enough


Public Accounts Committee publishes its final report on alcohol treatment services

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts published its final report following its inquiry into alcohol treatment services on 24 May, which is critical of the government’s approach to dealing with alcohol related illness and violent crime.  

The Committee reports that there has been an alarming rise in alcohol related deaths in the last two decades, with a further sharp increase since the start of the pandemic, and that 82 percent of the 600,000 dependent drinkers in England are not in treatment despite evidence that the funds spent on treatment immediately deliver benefits.

The report expresses concern that the Department for Health and Social Care’s understanding of the total cost of alcohol harm for the NHS and wider society is based on analysis from 2012, which may not reflect the full scale of harm being caused over a decade later. The Committee states that despite the widespread harm detailed in its report, there has not been an alcohol focused strategy from the government since 2012.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The harms from alcohol are appalling and the benefits of every £1 spent on treatment are immediate and obvious. It is linked to over 100 illnesses, mental disorder and suicide and to 42% of violent crime. It also costs the NHS and wider society at least £25 billion a year with inflation – and possibly more. But the Government has had no alcohol strategy in place since 2012 and abandoned its latest effort in 2020 – just as deaths from alcohol began to rise sharply over the terrible, unacceptable toll it was already taking. What more does DHSC need to see to act decisively on this most harmful intoxicant? In doing so it must give local authorities the certainty and stability over funding to maintain and improve the treatment programmes that are proven to work, and stop dithering over the evidence on industry reforms.”