Behind the headlines

Critics argue that the long-awaited alcohol strategy is wrong to
rely on voluntary codes for manufacturers and retailers and there
are claims that insufficient resources have been made available.
Six times as many people are dependent on drink as are on Class A
drugs, yet only 20 per cent of funding goes on alcohol treatment.
Questions have also been raised over the decision to carry out a
national audit on gaps in provision. Others have argued that there
is too much emphasis on law and order issues and not enough focus
on treatment and the root causes of the problem.

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“Almost everyone I know can tell me of a friend or relative whose
life has been ruined by alcohol abuse, yet the notion of ‘having a
good drink’ is still seen as acceptable behaviour. It is easy to
move from ‘social drinking’ to alcohol dependency, but accessible
and effective help is rarely available when it is needed, and it
can be too tempting to simply resume the habit. The alcohol misuse
strategy lacks a sense of urgency. Addressing it swiftly and
properly would be one of the most cost-effective social policies in
modern history.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The alcohol misuse strategy has taken six years to develop and
seems to offer nothing immediate and concrete to tackle the
escalating alcohol problems among large sections of the population,
including the young. Most fundamental is for GP contracts, backed
by primary care trust funding, to insist that GPs respond
effectively to all the needs of those they serve in their
community, not cherry-pick those with more socially acceptable
conditions or illnesses.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“It isÊvery hard for a person whose life and family are being
destroyed by alcohol to acknowledge their addiction and ask for
help. If they do not receive a sympathetic and timely response, the
chance to help may be lost and the downward spiral towards police
custody will begin. It makes no sense for this area to attract less
funding – who is more deserving than the potential victim of a
drunken driver or the child of the alcoholic parent?”

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“It seems that after waiting six years the alcohol misuse strategy
does little to address the root causes of alcohol misuse and does
not advocate a clear and joined up strategy involving GPs,
manufacturers and the law all working together to reduce the
problem. It is clear that we need a national audit of gaps in
provision, but this should have come before the development of the
strategy, if it starts now it will be a mechanism for more delay,
not improved services.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“It’s a big problem for government and society that we all keep on
misbehaving, drinking, smoking, getting pregnant, begging. The
trouble is that a strong law and order approach mainly impacts on
the disadvantaged and yet it really is a problem for us all –
especially excessive alcohol. We probably would get behaviour
change if GPs and indeed all NHS staff were much more definite
about alcohol abuse and healthier living and I can’t see why that
needs aÊcontract – surely most of us expect health advice from
the NHS.”

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