Shocking new figures have revealed the scale of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions in England.
Every year nearly 9,000 people die from diseases directly caused by alcohol, while admissions to hospital with alcohol-related conditions reached 860,000 last year.
Senior health professionals have said the impact of alcohol is “becoming a public health emergency” and called for tough legislative changes to combat the wide availability of cheap drink.
But last week the Government abandoned plans to ban pub happy hours and bulk alcohol offers in supermarkets.
A study conducted by the Alcohol and Health Research Unit at the University of the West of England found that nearly 9,000 people die from alcohol-related diseases, a three-fold increase in the last 25 years.
The calculations did not include deaths caused indirectly by alcohol, such as drink-driving and certain cancers.
Study leader Professor Martin Plant backed calls for legislation to determine a minimum price for units of alcohol.
The figures of hospital admissions were compiled by the North West Public Health Observatory.
Researchers found that 863,257 patients sought hospital treatment for alcohol-related harm in 2007-08.
This was an eight per cent increase on the previous year, the equivalent of 176 extra admissions every day.
North West Public Health Observatory director Professor Mark Bellis said the problem would only be tackled when the cost of alcohol-related harm is reflected in higher prices.
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said: “Confronting the culture of low prices and saturation advertising, along with, investment in accessible, effective treatments for harmful and dependent drinkers could make a big impact on what is becoming a public health emergency.”
Department of Health figures suggest that 1.1 million adults in Britain are alcohol dependent. Annual NHS expenditure to counter alcohol misuse is estimated at £2.7 billion, while last year the Government estimated that alcohol costs the economy between £17.7 billion and £25.1 billion a year.
Research by Sheffield University found that setting a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol would save 3,400 deaths a year.
Next month Home Office ministers will announce their decision to ditch plans to introduce a code which would have banned bulk discounts on alcohol and irresponsible drinks promotions.
The alcohol industry and big supermarket chains had strongly opposed the plans.
Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron said: “The level of alcohol related hospital admissions, crime, ill-health and deaths are unacceptable.
“The Government is working harder to help those who regularly drink too much or are dependent on alcohol.”