Alcohol policy-makers at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) are speaking out in support of the Scottish Executive Alcohol Action Plan launched this morning. Health Minister Andy Kerr has announced an extension of a test purchasing scheme to crack down on retailers selling alcohol to under-18s, as well as nationwide action on prevention, education, treatment, protection and controls.
Catriona Renfrew, Chair of the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Alcohol Action Team, said: "Like the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer, we see tackling the misuse of alcohol as a top priority for us. We welcome the measures announced in the Scottish Executive's Alcohol Action Plan and in particular the steps being taken to try to curb under-age drinking and purchasing of alcohol. Here in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, several organisations are already working on this by working together as a partnership."
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde Alcohol Action Team (AAT) consists of representatives from the Glasgow Addictions Service, local authorities, hospitals, Community Health Partnerships, Mental Health Partnership, Strathclyde Police, the Procurator Fiscal, the Scottish Prison Service and the voluntary sector.
"Working in partnership is vital. By pooling our resources, we are already tackling the problem of alcohol misuse in a number of ways:
* training staff across Greater Glasgow and Clyde in early intervention
* helping people at risk of problem drinking to access services, including education and training
* improving screening in hospitals so that patients can get treatment more quickly
* expanding addiction services within local communities
* working with partners to address the inappropriate sale of alcohol, initially through campaigns raising awareness of agents purchasing alcohol for young people
* developing Arrest and Referral schemes to help problem drinkers who are arrested
* running campaigns locally on safer drinking and socialising, to target the issue of binge drinking."
Several other important initiatives are also underway. Community Addictions Teams - which specialise in both alcohol and drug addiction - have almost doubled in three years; 5300 clients were seen in 2003 and 9300 by 2006. In the same period the number of people in community rehabilitation increased from 840 to 1234. Seven new community alcohol support services provide practical support and advice to help people in their own homes - thus aiming to prevent them from becoming homeless and entering a "vicious circle".
Patients are already being treated at Eriskay House at Stobhill Hospital, a 16-bed purpose built inpatient facility for people with alcohol and/or drug problems, and there are plans to develop another 16-bed specialist facility during 2007-2008. Ten new high-intensity residential rehabilitation beds have just been commissioned specifically for people with alcohol problems, and an Alcohol-Related Brain Damage Service has been developed, linked to 40 nursing care beds.
Early intervention is increasingly important; in the South West Glasgow Community Health and Care Partnership a pilot scheme will work with GPs to help identify people with alcohol problems before these become acute. Another project will try to improve the nutritional health of people with alcohol-related illness, and the Alcohol Action Team has spent money on extending generic counselling for alcohol into a number of communities.
A range of work is being developed which aims to support the reduction of alcohol consumption across the whole population and to target people who binge drink or drink harmfully. This includes:
* Increasing the range of alcohol prevention and education work at community level
* Continuing with local communication campaigns on alcohol issues and supporting the national alcohol communication activity
* Working the licensing board and trade on the introduction of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, to tackle alcohol-related harm
* Developing and improving workplace alcohol policies
* Developing a range of measures in town and city centres to reduce alcohol-related disorder and harm.
Catriona Renfrew said: "We are well aware here at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde of how serious the problems with alcohol abuse can be, and that's why we welcome the publication of the Scottish Executive's Alcohol Plan. Taking proactive steps to crack down on rogue traders selling alcohol to underage children is a particularly encouraging development and we hope that all these measures will have the desired effect. This is a problem that has to be tackled on a number of fronts over a sustained period of time if we are to be successful. "