North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey has described the planned new legislation by the Executive to raise the minimum price per unit of alcohol as a positive intervention.
The Assemblyman said that the additional annual bill to the health service demanded firm legislative action to reduce the additional drainon A&E services and the follow-up agency support services caused by alcohol abuse.
Commenting Mr Storey said:
“It is now common knowledge that A&E services are being disrupted from treating members of the public with standard injuries because of the influx of alcohol related injuries and illness particularly at weekends.”
Describing alcohol abuse as an increasing scourge within society, Mr Storey said he supported the Health Minister’s position on challenging the big supermarket chains to act responsibly by restricting the appeal and access to alcohol generated by their promotions.
“Claims by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium that prices and promotions do not cause irresponsible drinking fall way short of convincing when access to alcohol is incentivised by low prices,” he said.
“In fact surely the low cost and the very visible promotion of alcohol go some way to stimulating the culture of drinking.”
M. Storey said that estimates put the cost of alcohol misuse to the health and social care sector at almost £250m a year. He urged the Executive to consider putting the minimum price for a unit of alcohol at between 60 and 70 pence following their consultation on the issue.
“Why should irresponsible drinking by wreckless people, caught up in a drink-soaked culture of alcohol excess, be allowed to interfere with our health budget to the extent that A&E services face closure because they cannot cope with demand.
“Surely action to reduce the serious distraction of alcohol misuse and its affect on A&E services is now both desirable and necessary.”