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NHS counts cost of UK booze culture

A leading physician has hit out at Britain's growing drinking culture for the "immense strain" it is putting on the NHS - which is struggling to cope with the "unsustainable burden" placed upon it by problem drinkers.

Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), made the comments in response to a joint report released by the NHS Confederation and the RCP, which found that alcohol-related problems were costing the NHS £2.7b a year.

It also warned that a cultural shift in attitude was imperative to curb the trend of the nation's drinking culture.

Steve Barnett, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "The NHS can play a part in ensuring that treatment is provided for people who are exhibiting the early stages of an addiction to alcohol and by running its services more effectively; but a reappraisal of social attitudes to drinking is also well overdue."

A Department of Health spokesman said the level of alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime and deaths was unacceptable; however, Conservative health spokesman Mike Penning criticised the government for sending "mixed messages" about alcohol pricing and 24-hour drinking laws.

The report, entitled Too Much of the Hard Stuff: What Alcohol Costs the NHS, said better links between A&E, mental health, community and ambulance teams would ease the burden caused by excessive drinking.

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Royal College of Physicians