12 November 2014

GP praises moves against super-strength drink

A leading Brighton GP has said a scheme to stop street drinkers buying super-strength beers and ciders has been: “one of the most significant public health measures in recent times,” for the city.

Dr Tim Worthley, lead GP at Brighton Homeless Healthcare clinic in Morley Street made the remarks about the city council’s Sensible on Strength campaign.  Started last year, this asked local shops not to stock beers and ciders containing over six per cent alcohol.  So far more than 100 retailers have signed up.

Quoted in a report to the council’s licensing committee on November 20, Dr Worthley says:  “I am certain that the recent Sensible on Strength campaign has made a significant difference to my patients.  I am consistently told by patients that it is much harder to obtain high-strength lager and cider.   As a result many of them now drink lower strength alcohol.  This has reduced their number of seizures, reduced their confused state and improved their liver function.  They are now more able to access general medical care as well as care specific to their alcohol dependence.”

Chair of the licensing committee Cllr Stephanie Powell said:  “It’s extremely encouraging to have this endorsement from a doctor specialising in the field.

“This is a genuine attempt to do something about street drinking and getting people to change their lifestyles.  

“Not all retailers are signed up and I’d like to see more participate.  We also need to assess the extent to which street drinking might be displaced to areas outside the city centre.  We may need to ask off-licences further afield to join us to help the campaign.”

The report says 80 per cent of street drinkers had moved to lower-strength drinks. 

A local audit by the drug, alcohol and mental health charity Equinox found total numbers of street drinkers fell between July 2013 and July 2014 from just over 90 to just over 70. 

Experts say street drinkers can routinely consume between 10 and 20 cans of super-strength a day.  Just one can of nine per cent beer or cider contains four and a half units of alcohol – itself exceeding the daily recommended limit for men.

The committee meets at Hove Town Hall on November 20. 

Read the reports for the Licensing Committee (Licensing Act 2003) (this is agenda item no. 17 – Review of Statement of Licensing Policy).