Northern Ireland news

Minimum alcohol pricing 'could save lives' in the north

The introduction of a minimum price for alcohol sold in the north could save lives, a conference has heard. Picture by Kirsty O'Connor, Press Association

MINIMUM pricing on alcohol in Northern Ireland could save lives and cut the number of hospital admissions, a health conference heard yesterday.

Experts from the north, the Republic and Scotland met in Belfast to consider how to reduce the harm caused by alcohol addiction.

More than 300 deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2017 were linked to alcohol.

Earlier this month, a coroner held a joint inquest into the deaths of four alcoholics to highlight the dangers of excessive drinking.

Belfast coroner Joe McCrisken warned that the official recorded figures for alcohol-related deaths were the "tip of the iceberg".

Organised by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), experts yesterday discussed what policies have helped tackle problems caused by alcohol.

Attendees discussed a pioneering programme established by the Scottish government. The programme included the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland on May 1 2018.

Research by the University of Sheffield has shown that a similar approach in the north could reduce overall alcohol consumption, save over 60 lives, and result in 2,000 fewer hospital admissions annually, the conference heard.

The north's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said alcohol affects "individuals, families and communities".

"While progress has been made, too many people are affected by the harms caused by alcohol," he said.

"Gatherings like this help to share innovative approaches to deal with important issues. It is good to hear about the positive developments from colleagues in Scotland and across the island."

Suzanne Costello, chief executive at the IPH, said the meeting was an opportunity to "share expertise and evidence".

"Consumption, harms, and the culture of drinking are similar across these islands and therefore there is significant interest in learning from the development of the Scottish MESAS Programme."

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