MIDDLE-Aged drinkers on the verge of alcohol abuse will be targeted by GPs as part of a new strategy aimed at changing North Yorkshire’s “irresponsible drinking culture”.
Almost 200 people die each year in North Yorkshire as a result of alcohol, and with alcohol-related hospital admissions increasing each year, a new county-wide strategy for tackling abuse has been published by public health experts.
Setting a minimum price for alcohol will be explored, as will reducing the price and increasing the availability of non-alcoholic drinks in licensed premises.
Children will also be targeted, with schools supported to make pupils aware of the risks of alcohol abuse, and specialist services will be developed in areas where professionals see the most people suffering the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption.
GPs will be given extra help to ensure that health checks identify people in the 40-74 age range who at risk of harm from alcohol.
North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, said: “For too many people, harmful or hazardous drinking has become normal.
“We need to shift that culture so that low risk drinking becomes the norm. This is so right across a person’s life, from pregnancy and foetal development, through teenage years, young adulthood and leaving home, to the stresses of work and middle age and then retirement and risk of isolation in old age.”
The North Yorkshire Alcohol Strategy, which runs until 2019, has been developed by the county council’s public health team in partnership with local borough and district councils; the county’s clinical commissioning groups; North Yorkshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner; North Yorkshire Ambulance Service; and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), following a public consultation last year.
Its aim is to work with partners to reduce the harm caused by alcohol to “individuals, families, communities and businesses”, while ensuring that people are able to enjoy alcohol responsibly.
Coun Don Mackenzie, the council’s executive member for public health and prevention, said that while around one in seven adults in North Yorkshire don’t drink, around a quarter do at “harmful or hazardous” levels.
“Alcohol-related hospital admissions are increasing year on year, and nearly 200 people die in North Yorkshire every year as a result of alcohol,” he said. “It is associated with crime, including domestic violence and sexual crime, and features in antisocial behaviour in particular with over a quarter of incidents associated with alcohol in some areas.”
The strategy’s initiatives include working with businesses to encourage sensible drinking; running local awareness raising campaigns and activities about the harm alcohol can do and the importance of sensible drinking.
The County Council will also work with trading standards officers and the police to tackle under age sales, illegal imports of alcohol, and selling drinks to people who are already intoxicated.
North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said alcohol-related harm could have a “significant impact” on people’s feelings of safety. In a survey conducted by Ms Mulliagan’s office, 69 per cent of responders said that tackling drug and alcohol problems was important to them as it had a negative impact on their feelings of safety.