MPs demand ‘urgent action’ on liver disease

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The government, NHS and Public Health England (PHE) need to take ‘urgent action’ to address the growing problem of liver disease, according to a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group (APPHG). A national approach to prevention, early diagnosis and improved service provision is needed immediately, says Liver disease: today’s complacency, tomorrow’s catastrophe.

Deaths from liver disease rose by 40 per cent to 11,000 a year in the decade to 2012, the vast majority of them preventable, says the report. The document renews the call for a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, as well as for data on all aspects of liver disease to be ‘collected, monitored and used effectively on a far more thorough and systematic basis’. It also wants to see PHE and NHS England set ‘a clear goal’ of eliminating hepatitis C within 15 years.

‘Liver disease is the only one of the UK’s top five causes of death where death rates continue to rise and there is no national strategy to tackle this,’ said APPHG chair David Amess MP. ‘Unless urgent and coordinated action is taken now, in less than a generation liver disease has the potential to be the UK’s biggest killer. As most liver disease can be prevented, this is a tragic waste of life.’

Meanwhile the government has updated its guidance on banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT. The ban, announced earlier this year, was branded an ‘unsatisfactory compromise’ by alcohol health organisations calling instead for a minimum unit price (DDN, February, page 4). Alcohol Concern has also accused the government of disregarding the health of the nation to ‘protect the interests of big alcohol’ after a 1p per pint cut in beer duty and duty freeze on spirits and ordinary ciders was announced in last month’s budget.

‘The notion that this freeze is about protecting responsible drinkers is irresponsible spin – alcohol misuse costs us all £21bn a year, our hospitals weigh under the burden of it and our police forces are stretched to the limit because of it,’ said Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby. ‘Instead of taking serious, evidence-based action the chancellor has given the alcohol industry the green light to make bigger profits at all of our expense. This freeze makes a mockery of the government’s ban on below cost sales, rendering it even less effective than it would have been.’

Liver disease: today’s complacency, tomorrow’s catastrophe
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Banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT at www.gov.uk