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How can we encourage people to drink less in Liverpool? Dr Fiona Ogden-Forde explains

Originally published September 2015, this consultation is now closed

Liverpool is a vibrant city, well renowned amongst stag and hen parties alike for a “great night out”. Plenty of bars and a lively atmosphere encourage thousands of visitors to the city every year, and in the last 40 years it’s become easier and cheaper to buy alcohol than ever before. In Liverpool alone, there are 2,148 premises licenced to serve alcohol. That’s one premise for every 175 adults. There’s also increasing evidence available which suggests that both adults and children are coming to harm in Liverpool as a result of alcohol misuse.

One of the aims of Healthy Liverpool is to support people to “Live Well”. This means supporting people to enjoy the very best health they can, as well as ensuring they have a good quality of life. Currently, an estimated 11,300 people in Liverpool drink at high levels, this means they are regularly drinking more than the government recommended guidelines(External link), and approximately 10% of all hospital admissions in the city are estimated to be alcohol-related. If we are to achieve our Healthy Liverpool vision by 2021, it’s fundamental we reduce the amount of alcohol people are drinking.

So what does this mean? Working with a number of organisations, we’ve developed an alcohol action plan which focuses on a five key areas.

Through our new alcohol action plan we aim to:

  1. Achieve more sensible drinking patterns and prevent alcohol problems.
  2. Provide high quality treatment and care after treatment for people with alcohol problems.
  3. Reduce anti-social behaviour, crime and violence associated with alcohol.
  4. Support children, young people and families affected by alcohol.
  5. Control how easy and cheap it is to buy alcohol.

We’ve decided these should be our key priorities based on local information and review of national guidelines and evidence. We are really interested to hear what you think based on your own personal experiences. We don’t want to make assumptions, and we’re keen not to stereotype particular groups, such as young people, or automatically attribute the city’s problems to visitors. Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in Liverpool right now:

  • 76% of people aged 55 and over drink at least one a week.
  • 63% of men in Liverpool drink alcohol compared to 49% of women.
  • 60 - 67% of people who work full or part-time drink alcohol, compared to 49% of those who are unemployed.
  • People who consider their health to be “good” drink more than those who consider their health to be “bad”.
  • Between 2011- 2015 there were 1793 sexual offences in Liverpool of which 302 (17%) were alcohol related.
  • Over same period there were a total of 3,219 recorded offences of alcohol violence with injury which accounted for 26% of all violence with injury offences.

Furthermore, evidence shows alcohol misuse is having a significant impact on families, with an estimated 23,400 children and young people in Liverpool living with adults who are binge drinkers. The true scale of how alcohol misuse is affecting families can often be difficult to estimate, as research shows these harms remain hidden and unreported.

Great progress has been made in Liverpool so far to support people to drink less. The city’s first ’dry’ bar, The Brink, opened in 2011 giving residents the opportunity to socialise in an alcohol-free zone, 20 bars and clubs in the Ropewalks area have voluntarily signed up to the “Say no to drunks” scheme which prevents people from being served alcohol if they are already drunk, and between 2011-14, 1,649 licensee holders across Liverpool underwent training to combat underage drinking.

In addition, over the last 10 years the rate of alcohol specific hospital admissions in under 18’s has fallen from 173.3 per 100,000 population to 48.6, and whilst rates of mortality due to chronic liver disease in the city are on the rise again, they did fall between 2006/08 and 2009/11. This demonstrates that with the right action plan and education, we can support people to “Live Well” and drink less.

As I said, this is just a snapshot of what’s happening in Liverpool right now. Whilst there is lots of great work is going on to reduce the harm people come to as a result of alcohol misuse, there is still more that can be done. We want to continue to change people’s attitudes towards alcohol and encourage drinking within the recommended amounts, reduce the number of alcohol related crimes, challenge how accessible alcohol is and support people through recovery, in a sustainable way.

Dr Fiona Ogden - Ford, GP Lead for Alcohol


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