David CAMERON yesterday declared war on booze Britain during a visit to a hospital.
The Prime Minister pledged to tackle the growing “scandal” of alcohol-fuelled disorder when he met doctors, nurses, paramedics and police at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to highlight the cost of alcohol to the NHS.
He toured the hospital – which has a policeman on duty every Thursday and Friday night to handle incidents of drunken disorder.
Mr Cameron said: “The facts are pretty stark. Alcohol costs the NHS almost £3bn a year; that is a cost of £90 to every taxpayer.
“This has a huge impact on the NHS and a huge impact on accident and emergency which every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night are overrun by people who are drunk and incapable.
“We need to do more to tackle this problem. We are going to look at the issue of alcohol pricing. I’m quite convinced there is deep discounting of alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores and that it is causing part of the problem.
“We need to take action right across the board. I want to make sure local councils have the power to close down bars that are causing a problem and that police can step in if they need to because it is against the law to sell to people who are drunk or underage.
“We also need to look at the issue of pricing. This is a national problem.”
Campaigners want Mr Cameron to control binge drinkers by charging a minimum price for units of alcohol.
Balance, the North East of England’s alcohol office, said demand for alcohol had to be controlled – as it was in the past by pricing and licensing hours.
It said there should be a minimum price per unit of alcohol and that the industry must be banned from targeting children.
Sue Taylor, partnerships manager for Balance, said: “Pocket money prices, widespread availability and heavy promotion increase alcohol consumption.
“Innovative local solutions are helpful but this problem is so big that we need to introduce preventative measures at a population level. These are the measures that must be part of the upcoming alcohol strategy and include a minimum price per unit of alcohol.”