Local authorities ‘not recognising impact’ of alcohol

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The impact of alcohol is not being recognised and prioritised by local authorities, according to a report from Alcohol Concern. The document looks at the health and wellbeing strategies, joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs) and clinical commissioning group (CCG) strategies of 25 local authorities, including 15 ranked among the highest for alcohol-related harm.

The aim of the research was to see how much of a priority alcohol harm was for the ‘newly empowered’ local authorities, following the transfer of public health responsibility from primary care trusts last year. Many of the strategies had an over-reliance on hospital admissions data and were ‘unlikely’ to meet Public Health England’s (PHE) definition of a ‘comprehensive section on alcohol-related charm’, said the charity.

The document calls for directors of public health to make sure that JSNAs prioritise alcohol harm and consider its impact on groups including women, victims of abuse, offenders and people with mental health problems. They should also make sure, in partnership with CCG chairs, that strategic processes consider clients’ care pathways through treatment, with ‘clear responsibility for each step’, it says.

‘Alcohol misuse has a huge impact on local authorities, not just at the hospital or doctor’s,’ said chief executive Eric Appleby. ‘It ranges from health to crime and disorder, affects older people as well as young people and impacts on families and social services as well as the look and feel of the high street. It’s vital that local authorities recognise all of these impacts in order to create joined-up strategies to address them. We need to see clear prioritisation for both treatment and prevention services – responsibility must not be allowed to fall between the gaps of local bodies’ remits.’

The charity has also branded David Beckham’s decision to promote Diageo’s Haig Club whisky ‘incredibly disappointing’. ‘Given David Beckham’s other roles promoting sport and a healthy lifestyle to children, we believe this will send a confusing message to them about the dangers of alcohol and its impact on a healthy lifestyle, and we call on the star to rethink his association with this product,’ said deputy chief executive, Emily Robinson. 

An audit of alcohol-related harm in joint strategic needs assessments, joint health and wellbeing strategies and CCG commissioning plans at www.alcoholconcern.org.uk