New alcohol policy measures should be considered to reduce alcohol-related ambulance calls and prevent a return to pre-pandemic levels, a study in Scotland suggests.
Researchers at the University of Stirling found that calls from the Scottish Ambulance Service related to alcohol consumption at licensed premises declined significantly during the first lockdown in 2020, but were replaced relatively quickly by calls related to the alcohol in homes.
The researchers have therefore suggested measures such as increasing the minimum unit price of store-bought alcohol to reduce consumption in households without affecting prices in bars, and they are also proposing restrictions on online sales.
Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, director of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health in Stirling, which led the study, said: closures and curfews, which have helped reduce the spread of the virus.
“However, we know that these restrictions have also led many people to drink more alcohol at home. Looking at frontline data from the NHS – the Scottish Ambulance Service – and adjusting for the fact that ambulance calls declined during this period for other reasons, our study shows that there have been reductions disproportionate short-term alcohol-related calls in April and May 2020, when licensed premises were closed, compared to the previous year.
“It was a situation paramedics described as a welcome break from the hostile and alcohol-fueled scenes experienced in cities on the weekend evenings before the pandemic. However, we also identified public health risks caused by the increase in alcohol consumption in the home during this period – these night calls being quickly replaced by all alcohol-related ambulance calls. days of the week, possibly related to alcohol consumption at home.
She added: ‘Our findings suggest that policymakers here in Scotland, as well as in the UK and abroad, need to think about how to build on the lessons learned during the pandemic. As the nighttime economy picks up, how can we avoid a return to pre-pandemic levels of alcohol-related calls resulting from the nighttime economy, but also reduce the calls and damage from drinking? alcohol at home? “
Researchers found that the total number of ambulance calls for all causes between March and June 2020 – when the lockdown was in place – decreased from the previous year.
However, alcohol-related calls fell much more sharply – with a 23.9% reduction in April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
The drop was even more pronounced on weekends – down 31.8% – and on weekend nights, down 48.9%.
After April, despite the closure of licensed establishments, the proportion of alcohol-related calls gradually began to return to pre-lockdown levels.
The new document, Lockdown and Licensed Premises: Covid-19 Lessons for Alcohol Policy, is published in Drug and Alcohol Review.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said the Scottish government continues to look for ways to reduce alcohol consumption.
“I am determined to build on the progress we have already made and will consult next year on potential restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion,” she said. “We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the minimum unit price (MUP) level remains effective in reducing damage.”
Ms Todd said the Scottish government was gathering evidence to analyze the impact of MUP since its introduction, with a final report from Public Health Scotland due in 2023.
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