SUNDERLAND has been left with a £26.3million bill from booze abuse across the city.
Alcohol health care is costing Wearside a fortune with up to 26 people treated every day for drink-related problems.
According to latest figures, alcohol treatment is costing Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department alone a staggering £6.7million.
The figures have prompted further calls for the city to address its booze culture, with almost a quarter of residents drinking to a level that could damage their health.
Today, medics called for the introduction of a minimum unit pricing to help bring down the bill and save Wearside millions.
The figures, from Alcohol Concern and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), show the abuse of drink is costing every adult in Sunderland £112.
According to the HSCIC, 9,600 people were treated by medics in the city for drink-related health problems last year.
Kate Lambert, A&E consultant at Sunderland Royal Hospital, believes a fresh approach is needed.
She said: “To have an environment where drinking so much that you are physically and emotionally unable to look after yourself and others around you is seen as essential to having a good time seems stupid to me.
“Where local and national policies allow alcohol to be so available and so cheap, it’s not surprising that people are asking why they have to put up with drunken behaviour and then pay the cost of clearing up afterwards through their taxes.
“We see the effects of harmful drinking on a daily basis in the Emergency Department.
“I support minimum unit pricing, as do the royal colleges and the BMA. The hidden health harms of alcohol are really important for all of us to be aware of, but minimum unit price hits cheap alcohol harder and more selectively than taxation does.
“Unfortunately, minimum unit price has been dropped from national policy. We know that alcohol is a bigger problem for the North East than other areas of the country.
“I would like Sunderland to consider what more can be done, perhaps looking at models such as Ipswich, where police time and money has been saved by retailers agreeing to stop selling super-strength beers and ciders.
“The most popular brands are owned by a handful of multinational companies. It’s always cheering to know that while the department is working flat out and seeing people in their 30s with advanced liver disease or dealing with alcohol related injuries, that there may be someone jet-skiing across Lake Geneva or holidaying in the Seychelles on the profits.”
The city’s drink problem was highlighted during the recent Channel 4 programme, Bouncers, showing students picking up drinks for as little as 50p.
Sunderland has tried to address issues in the past with projects including street pastors, assigned to help those intoxicated on nights out and a mobile treatment unit – dubbed the Booze Bus – to treat those with minor injuries.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Here in the North East we continue to suffer at the hands of alcohol – alcohol that is too affordable, too available and too heavily marketed. And it’s a similar picture across the country.
“That’s why to tackle the problem of cheap, strong alcohol consumed by young people and heavy drinkers we need to introduce a minimum unit price. It is proven to reduce alcohol harms, saving thousands of lives, reducing hospital admissions and drastically cutting crime.”