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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 March, 2004, 14:49 GMT
Alcohol puts huge pressure on NHS
Alcohol misuse costs the health service billions
The effects of alcohol misuse are stretching the NHS to breaking point, doctors say.

It is estimated the cost of dealing with incidents and disease involving alcohol is about 1.7bn a year.

About a million people visit A&E departments each year because of alcohol-related factors.

The government is set to publish its recommendations on what can be done to tackle the issue of alcohol misuse shortly.

Alcohol consumption has increased by 50% since 1970.

The annual cost of alcohol-related crime and public disorder has been estimated at 7.3bn, the cost to employers has been put at 6.4bn.

Verbal abuse

Doctors say the NHS cannot cope.

Palani Muthu, a consultant in A&E at Darlington Memorial Hospital, told the BBC: "I think alcohol puts a huge strain on the health service, in terms of the cost and in terms of it being a very stressful situation for the staff.

"That increases the staff leaving the NHS."

He said most incidents involved verbal abuse.

Darlington is currently trying to deal with problem drinking by arming its city patrol wardens with hats with hidden cameras.

The hats will have logos on them to warn people they are being filmed.

It is hoped if people are aware they are being filmed, they may curb their behaviour.

But if incidents do occur, images from the cameras could be used in any resulting court case.

'Increase prices'

The government is due to publish a strategy for tackling Britain's booze culture shortly.

Ideas the government is said to be considering are bans on happy hours, tobacco-style health warnings on drinks and better labelling.

Experts fear they may not go far enough, while drinkers are dubious whether such ideas would work.

Last week, experts from the Academy of Medical Sciences recommended the cost of alcoholic drinks be increased by 10% to encourage people to drink less.

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