Cameron’s plan to tackle the ‘scandal’ of alcohol abuse which costs NHS £2.7bn every year

Gaby Leslie

David Cameron is due to visit a hospital this afternoon where he will highlight the ‘scandal’ of alcohol abuse that is said to cost the NHS £2.7billion every year.

During the visit to the North-East, he will discuss with doctors and nurses the costs of excess alcohol consumption and the proposals to tackle the issue. Supermarkets and the drinks industry will also be asked to play a greater role in promoting responsible drinking.

But a recent Government report estimated that the total cost of alcohol to society annually, including crime and lost work, could be as high as £22 billion.

Draconian measures to curb binge-drinking culture are expected to form part of the plan.

One proposal is for US-style cells known as ‘drunk tanks’ to house intoxicated people until they sober up meaning that there won’t be a need to admit them to hospital or formally charge them.

[ Related story: 'Drunk tanks' could solve drinking problems]

Other ideas include having paramedics on standby in town centres and increasing the number of police in hospitals' A&E departments.

The Government is also set to publish its alcohol strategy later this year recommending higher minimum prices for drink, potentially by increasing duties on many alcoholic beverages.

The Prime Minister will highlight the problem of Britain’s alcohol culture, saying:  “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.

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“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.”

He will continue: “Whether it's the police officers in A&E that have been deployed in some hospitals, the booze buses in Soho and Norwich, or the drunk tanks used abroad, we need innovative solutions to confront the rising tide of unacceptable behaviour.”