Birmingham launches city's new alcohol strategy

By on 19/07/2012 in Cllr Bedser, News

While most people drink responsibly, alcohol misuse ruins thousands of lives in Birmingham and cost the city around £200 million last year.

As Birmingham launches a new alcohol strategy to tackle the health and social problems caused by alcohol misuse, figures from Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team show that 25 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in the city are drinking above safe limits.

The damage caused by alcohol misuse includes:

  • At peak times, up to 70 per cent of all admissions to accident and emergency departments in Birmingham are related to alcohol;
  • 3,600 incidents of domestic violence (around a third) are linked to alcohol misuse;
  • Up to 170,000 working days are lost through alcohol-related absence, costing the city's economy about £30 million each year;
  • About 20,000 children in Birmingham are affected by parental alcohol problems;
  • Marriages where there are alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce;
  • In 2009, half of all 11 to 15-year-olds in the city had already had an alcoholic drink;
  • Parental alcohol misuse has been identified as a factor in more than 500 child protection cases.

The Drug and Alcohol Action Team within NHS Birmingham and Solihull and Birmingham City Council's Community Safety Partnership launched the city's new four-year Alcohol Strategy today to address these issues.

Other partners who contributed to the development of the strategy included city council Children's and Young People services, West Midlands Police, regulatory services, hospital trusts, alcohol charities and West Midlands Fire Service.

The strategy's three key objectives are:

  • Promoting a safe and sensible approach to alcohol consumption -
  • Maintain a range of alcohol services in hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, community settings, police stations and courts;
  • Continue to focus on underage drinking in pubs and bars and underage sales of alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets, to ensure young people do not obtain alcohol illegally;
  • Lobby for the implementation of a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Protecting families and the wider community from the adverse impact of alcohol -

  • Continue to increase the effectiveness and availability of the alcohol treatment system for offenders;
  • Establish a healthy workforce pilot programme for Birmingham's main employers in order to reduce alcohol-related absenteeism;
  • Continue to develop services which protect young people from alcohol-related incidents and illnesses.

Reducing the impact of alcohol-related damage to people's health -

  • Further develop services which assist high risk groups including those from a hostel, homeless and student population;
  • Develop specialist treatment provision for the relative, parents and carers of problem drinkers;
  • Ensure alcohol services deliver family focused alcohol interventions.

The new strategy builds on work already undertaken by the partners, which has reduced anti-social behaviour incidents across the city by nearly half from 8,000 to 5,000 a month since November 2009.

Alcohol-related crime has dropped by 24.5 per cent in four years, while the number of alcohol-related deaths in Birmingham has reduced by 12 per cent from six years ago to 473 last year.

Max Vaughan, Alcohol Commissioning Manager at Birmingham's Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said: “Working alongside our partners, we have made a great deal of progress in addressing the cost of alcohol misuse.

“However, much remains to be done. We are focussing on the three key areas where alcohol misuse is seen to make a significant impact - health; crime and community safety; and families and young people - to drive down these figures still further.”

Cllr Steve Bedser, Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Alcohol misuse ruins thousands of lives in Birmingham every year. With one in four men and almost one in five women drinking above the safe limits, both the human and financial costs of this problem are huge.

“But a lot of good work is being done across the city and, by working closely with our partners, we believe this new strategy helps us tackle an issue that impacts on so many lives.”

Jacqui Kennedy, Director of Regulation and Enforcement at Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham is an amazing city, and we work really well in partnership and this strategy is the result of that partnership effort. As a city we have delivered some excellent results but there is always more we can do and this strategy is fundamental in the delivery of a holistic approach to managing alcohol and reducing alcohol harm in our great city.”

New initiatives include a system currently being introduced by Birmingham's Drug and Alcohol Action Team to increase the number of alcohol referrals by systematically sending out lists of patients admitted to hospital for alcohol-specific conditions to their GP, asking them to review and refer the individual to treatment services if necessary.

From the time when the patient starts treatment, the subsequent rate of future hospital admissions will be tracked to monitor effectiveness of the programme.

END

Case studies

Alcohol screening

The Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team has developed an alcohol screening programme in hospitals, GP surgeries, primary care centres, pharmacies and courts to ensure that people who drink at dangerous levels receive the help they need.

Patients are asked a short series of questions to establish how much they are drinking, and given advice in a 'brief intervention' if they are drinking above the safe limits recommended by the Government (21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women). More than 30,000 brief interventions were delivered in the city last year.

Those who have more serious problems are helped to access specialist treatment services.

Hundreds of doctors and nurses have been trained by Alcohol Concern and alcohol service Aquarius on how to deliver effective advice in brief interventions and what to do if patients need more support.

Tackling anti-social behaviour in Moseley

Birmingham Community Safety Partnership (BCSP) has recently secured a landmark injunction to help tackle the nuisance behaviour caused by beggars and drinkers in Moseley Village.

Officers from the Partnership's Safer Communities Team have worked with local police, residents and businesses to obtain a Section 222 injunction which means that individuals are prohibited from conducting the following activity in the Moseley Village area:

(a) being in possession of an opened container of alcohol;

(b) begging;

(c) urinating or defecating or exposing their genitalia, other than when using a toilet which is available for use by members of the public; or

(d) having sexual intercourse.

Specifically, the behaviour has included aggression and intimidation from beggars when money is not passed over, drinking, defecation and urination in clear public view, indecent exposure and sexual acts being performed in public, specifically within the confines of St Mary's Churchyard.

Following reports of concern from local people and partner agencies and prior to the application being made, BCSP had being working with local alcohol referral services offering support to drinkers. The Section 222 injunction is part of this package of measures to assist local residents in helping to make their area safer.

Officers are in the process of communicating this message across the area including to anyone who may have perpetrated these acts previously, in an attempt to prevent any breaches of the order. Leaflets and posters will be distributed and displayed to inform potential offenders.

A joint partnership operation will now be undertaken and the Section 222 would be served on any drinkers in the area who are causing a nuisance after the injunction has been locally publicised. Any breaches will result in a fine, custodial sentence or both. Any resident who witnesses a breach of the conditions must report it directly to West Midlands Police on 101.

Illicit alcohol seizure

A joint task force made up of Birmingham Community Safety Partnership and the Birmingham South Alcohol Group seized over £100,000 worth of alcohol, which was being sold illegally at off-licences in Weoley, Edgbaston, Northfield, Selly Oak and Kings Norton, in December 2011. The alcohol would have been sold at a reduced price, increasing the amount of cheap alcohol available to the areas and to young people. The businesses that were targeted reflected those where there were concerns about underage sales as well as the price at which they were selling alcohol.

Birmingham South Alcohol Forum

The forum was set up to raise awareness of the problems of alcohol misuse and the options and services that are available to address it. It has held two events so far - in November 2011 and May this year - featuring presentations about alcohol services, legal tools, interactive workshops and agency stalls. Groups represented included children's centres, youth services, the Youth Offending Service, health professionals from hospitals in the city, Birmingham City Council, local schools, West Midlands Police, alcohol and drug services, trading standards, school nurses and health visitors.

People who have been helped by the Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team

'Helen'*

Helen, aged 34, was drinking 70 units (eight bottles of wine) each week until her GP referred her to treatment. She received six sessions of information and advice on alcohol, delivered from her surgery. As a result, she reduced her drinking to below the safe limits for women of 14 units per week. She is now sleeping better and coping better at work and with her children, and the anxiety and depression, from which she had previously suffered, have reduced considerably, as has her blood pressure. She has started a college course and is enjoying days out with her family at weekends.

She said: “Alcohol support services helped me put my life back together. I now have better relationships with my partner and kids and feel so much better in myself. I never knew there was some much support available.”

'Paul'*

Paul, aged 42, had been drinking 240 units (four litres of strong cider each day) each week and was admitted to hospital three times for mental health issues and pancreatitis over the past year. The hospital referred him to a specialist alcohol services team and he has cut his intake to 35 units per week and re-established contact with his family. He continues to receive support from his GP and the treatment services. He could not work at all before but has recently started a training course, which he attends three days a week.

He said: “I never realised how much my drinking was pulling me down. Since I sorted myself out with the help provided, it's like having a black cloud lifted from above my head.”

*names have been changed.

For further information please contact:

NHS Birmingham and Solihull

Joanna Kail, Tel: 0121 255 0725; Email: joanna.kail@nhs.net

Notes to Editors

The Birmingham Alcohol Strategy 2012 - 2016 can be downloaded from www.bdaat.co.uk

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