Alarming new predictions suggest that there could be 210,000 preventable deaths from alcohol in England and Wales over the next 20 years if the current laws are not reformed.
Writing in The Lancet, experts are putting pressure on the government ahead of its alcohol strategy for England and Wales later this year.
The figure of 210,000 represents the ‘worse-case scenario’ of no changes to alcohol policy. 70,000 of the deaths could be from liver disease, and another 140,000 from drink-related strokes, heart attacks, cancer, violence and accidents.
Professor Ian Gilmore, a former President of the Royal College of Physicians, Dr Nick Sheron, from the National Institute for Health Research and members of the British Society of Gastroenterology wrote:
"It remains entirely within the power of the UK government to prevent the worst-case scenario of preventable deaths.”
A recent study in the Lancet journal concluded that alcohol is more harmful to society than Class A drugs heroin or crack cocaine.
Ministers had hoped that introducing 24 hour drinking laws in 2005 would stop revellers binge-drinking in the run-up to closing time. But between the years of 2009 and 2010 over a million people were admitted to hospital for alcohol related illnesses, costing the NHS £2.7bn.
Charity Alcohol Concern has predicted that rates of alcohol related hospital admissions will rise again to 1.5m every year by 2015, increasing costs to £3.7bn.
Alcohol can increase the risk of seven types of cancer, including two of the commonest kinds – breast and bowel cancers. A recent study showed that nearly 12,500 cancers in the UK each year are caused by alcohol.
Writing in The Lancet, the group said: "We are at a potential tipping point in the UK in taking on the shameful, preventable loss of life caused by alcohol."
Selling alcohol below cost price is to be banned in England and Wales from 6 April, and ministers are expected to recommend a higher minimum price for drink in the new strategy.
The chief executive of Alcohol Concern, Eric Appleby, said: "We can see from the example of other countries that drinking patterns really can change, the challenge is there for the government to start the process now through the Alcohol Strategy."
With private medical insurance, you will be covered for treatment in a private hospital of your choice at a time of your choice, avoiding the heavy financial implications of alcohol related illnesses on the NHS.
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