Fast Track Helps With Severe Alcohol Problems

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Twenty of the areas worst hit by alcohol misuse are to receive support as part of a new programme which will help the local health service better identify and intervene with those at risk, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo announced today.

Speaking at the National Alcohol Conference in Nottingham, Ms Primarolo announced a new, wide-reaching Alcohol Improvement Programme to accelerate progress on reducing alcohol-related harm.

The new programme, backed by £6 million will:

* establish regional alcohol managers to push forward alcohol treatment and advice at a local level;

* pull together local information on statistics, hospital admissions and medical conditions to help treatment commissioners;

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* help increase access to specialist treatment - there is currently just one place for every 18 people who show signs of dependence; and

* push out simple advice which, nationally, could help 250,000 men and 70,000 women to bring their drinking down to lower risk levels.

The twenty areas are some of the most deprived in the country and are most seriously affected by alcohol-related harm. Reducing alcohol problems is key to reducing inequality - these areas will be the first to take bold steps and get to grips with the problem.

An additional £1 million will fund a new Alcohol Learning Centre and support activities. The programme will draw together best practice and success from each of the 20 areas so other local health services can learn from the programme.

Ms Primarolo said: "More than a quarter of adults in England drink above Government guidelines and around 15,000 people die because of alcohol every year. We clearly have a serious problem that needs urgent attention.

"Starting with the most deprived areas in inequality hotspots, we are going to roll out a new programme which will identify and help drinkers who are at risk. For every pound spent on alcohol intervention, five pounds are saved by the public purse - so this is money well spent."

Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "Problem drinkers have faced a postcode lottery for services for far too long. This new injection of cash is most welcome for the areas worst affected by alcohol misuse and all areas will benefit from improved information and guidance. Slowly, but surely, local areas are now being provided with the tools they need to invest in alcohol treatment, the challenge will be for them to convert this into services on the ground for those who need it most."

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