A&E staff in Sunderland are treating hundreds of drunk children, including many barely able to stand up after buying cheap booze.
Children as young as 12 have been admitted to the city’s Royal Hospital for alcohol-related emergencies.
Many of these young people are buying large quantities of strong ciders, wines and spirits for less than £5.
Today one Sunderland A&E doctor said it was “completely idiotic” to talk about a national crisis in Emergency Departments and not address the issue of cheap alcohol.
Wearside’s health bosses, youth leaders and health campaigners have joined voices and called for a minimum price on alcohol in a bid to ebb the flow of young admissions and ease the burden on the city’s A&E.
An investigation by the Echo has revealed 841 under 18s A&E admissions to Sunderland Royal since 2010.
•In 2010 there were 306 admissions, 300 in 2011 and 235 in 2012.
•In 2012 there were 10 per cent more boys (123) than girls (112) admitted for treatment.
•There have been 14 12-year-olds and 34 13-year-olds admitted during the past three years.
•July is the busiest month for alcohol admissions in under 18s.
Just weeks ago, the Echo revealed how the city’s A&E department was heading towards breaking point after the number of admissions rocketed.
Kate Lambert, A&E consultant at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said today that a minimum price on alcohol would play a vital role in addressing the problem.
She said: “Minimum unit price is not going to affect the cost of a drink in a pub at all, and very little increase for people drinking within recommended health limits.
“Sometimes, people need help to choose well. It seems completely idiotic to talk about a national crisis in Emergency Departments and not do something that we know can improve health and reduce consumption amongst groups that are most likely to come to the ED – binge drinkers and people drinking low-cost vodka, beers and cider.
“Along with the medical Royal Colleges, the British Medical Association and many people in the pub trade, I am a big supporter of a minimum unit price.”
The Echo picked up a stash of booze for pocket money prices. A 1 litre bottle of Frosty Jacks cider cost £1.69, a 1.5 litre bottle of Lambrini was £3.29 and we paid £1.59 for a 1.25 litre bottle of White Storm.
Colin Shevills, director of regional alcohol awareness campaign group Balance, said: “One of the major problems we face is that alcohol, particularly strong white cider and some brands of vodka, is too cheap and this encourages young and vulnerable people to drink to excess.
“Our most recent price survey found that cider can be bought for as little as 19p per unit here in the region, which means a man can drink at his recommended daily limit (3-4 units) for just 76p and a woman can drink at her daily limit (2-3 units) for just 57p. That’s cheaper than the price of bottled water or a branded soft drink, which is clearly sending out the wrong message.”