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Royal College joins over 80 organisations in support of raising minimum unit price for alcohol

19 Mar 2024

Over 80 organisations come together in unprecedented move in support of
raising the minimum unit price for alcohol to 65p

More than 80 organisations from across Scotland and beyond have come together to call on MSPs to increase the minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol to 65p. The move comes ahead of a crucial Holyrood vote.

The letter – which brings together dozens of medical, faith organisations and charities – sent to the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, calls for cross-party support for the renewal of MUP and to uprate the price to 65p per unit.

Co-ordinated by Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems), the joint letter has been sent to the Health Committee as they prepare to report to the Parliament on draft regulations to renew the policy and to uprate the minimum price to 65p, by Easter. The Parliament as a whole must vote by the end of April to pass the regulations, otherwise the policy will end.

College President, Mike McKirdy said “Alcohol harm results in tragic and preventable loss of life, affecting families, friends and the wider community. Unfortunately, we witnessed an increase of this during the pandemic, and as we look to recovery across health, we must prioritise prevention as well as effective treatment.

“We recognise increasing concern around link with alcohol misuse and growing health inequalities exacerbated in our current economic crisis. Therefore, we strongly support this call, urging the Scottish Government to build on the visible impact MUP has already had in reducing alcohol related death and its potential to reduce harm for future generations.”

The joint letter states that minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol has saved and improved hundreds of lives in Scotland since it was introduced in 2018, citing extensive and robust evaluation by Public Health Scotland. The evaluation estimates that MUP had reduced deaths caused solely by alcohol by 13.4%, driven by significant improvements in chronic outcomes, particularly alcoholic liver disease. This translates to 156 families each year who have been spared the loss of a loved one. In addition, hospital admissions are down by an estimated 4.1%, reducing pressure on the NHS.

The signatories highlight that failure to raise MUP to 65p per unit will result in an estimated 800 more deaths, and almost 10,000 additional hospital admissions at an estimated cost of £11 million to our hospitals, over the next five years.

Speaking on publication of the letter, Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus said: “We have been delighted to see support for our joint letter on increasing MUP coming from such a diverse range of organisations across the whole of Scotland and beyond. This clearly demonstrates that increasing MUP is not simply a concern to those working in public health but stretches right across Scottish society – very much reflecting the nature and extent of alcohol related harm.

“Most of us know someone, or perhaps several people, whose lives have been blighted by their own drinking or by that of a loved one.

“Minimum pricing has resulted in tangible benefits to Scotland’s health and wellbeing. Hundreds of lives have been saved, it has helped reduce the burden on our NHS through significantly reducing hospital admissions at a time of major strain for the health service – and has resulted in a reduction in health inequalities affecting some of our most vulnerable communities.

“The Scottish Parliament has a great track record of cross-party action to improve public health. We hope that all parties will come together to continue with and uprate minimum unit pricing as part of a multi-faceted approach to changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. Failure to do so would risk a reversal in the many gains we have seen from this world leading policy.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and former consultant hepatologist said: “Alcohol harm affects all aspects of Scottish life and healthcare professionals see it amongst patients every day. The amount of alcohol harm is closely linked to how affordable it is, so it is no surprise that MUP has reduced that harm.

“As expected, it has been most effective in the most deprived communities who suffer the highest number of deaths and highest number of alcohol-related hospitalisations, thus reducing health inequalities.

“I am pleased to see MUP receiving such widespread support across Scotland: this reflects the clear understanding that MUP not only needs to continue, but to set it a rate any less than 65p would result in lives concentrated in our poorest communities being unnecessarily lost.”

Category: Health Inequalities

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