Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland are 54% higher than in England and Wales, according to statistics released last week.

The Health Scotland report Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy: Monitoring Report 2017 shows that in 2016, 10.5 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult in Scotland, which is equivalent to 20.2 units per adult each week.

In addition, alcohol-related deaths were six times higher in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived, showing that significant inequalities in alcohol-related harm persist.

Figures are worrying health officials and blame is once again being cast on widely-available cheap alcohol.

The BMA Scotland council chair Peter Bennie called for action and criticised the delay in implementing Scotland’s minimum-unit pricing legislation.

More than half of all alcohol sold through supermarkets and off licences in Scotland is sold at less than 50p per unit. In 2015, alcohol sold in the UK as a whole was 60% more affordable than it was in 1980. It is currently at its most affordable level since 2007.

“Minimum-unit pricing – a policy that big alcohol producers have spent the last 5 years delaying, and trying to prevent – would have a significant impact on reducing alcohol harms and must be implemented as swiftly as possible”, said Dr Bennie.

The important role that General Practitioners (GPs) play in highlighting the issue of alcohol abuse are also raised in two reports launched last week at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The reports, Practice and attitudes of General Practitioners in the delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions in Scotland and Financial incentives for Alcohol Brief Interventions in Primary Care in Scotland discuss the central role that GPs can play in raising the sensitive issue of alcohol use with patients.

They also discuss how incentives such as financial payments and sufficient training for primary care staff can help ensure effective interventions to prevent and reduce harm.

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