Costs of Britain’s booze binges revealed

By Oliver Hotham

Problem drinking is costing the taxpayer £2.7 billion a year, the prime minister will warn later.

David Cameron is touring the north-east to meet with doctors, nurses, paramedics and police, those on the frontline of Britain's binge drinking problem, to argue stricter rules and a change in public perceptions are necessary to curb the issue of problem drinking.

On top of the £90 per person bill faced by the NHS, the government has calculated the wider cost of alcohol to Britain as being between £17 billion and £22 billion.

The prime minister is expected to say it is unacceptable public drunkenness which links to violence and intimidation has become the norm.

"This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it.

"As figures today show the NHS is having to pick up an ever-growing bill – £2.7 billion a year, including £1 billion on accident and emergency services alone. That’s money we have to spend because of the reckless behaviour of an irresponsible minority," he will say.

"This isn't just about more rules and regulation. It's about responsibility and a sense of respect for others. This is an area where the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs need to work with government so that responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan."

The opposition is arguing the government's policy of cutting frontline police services is making it harder for police to deal with problem drinkers.

"The fact is, on Friday and Saturday nights across our country, the prime minister's policy of cutting frontline police officers is making it harder, not easier, to tackle problem drinkers," a Labour party spokesperson said.

Both the government and the opposition have been suggesting the possibility of introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol, which would limit the consumption of cheap strong drinks like cider or own-brand spirits.

The Scottish government has been trying to implement a minimum pricing policy since last year and faces a legal battle from the drinks industry if it passes. Scotland has the worst rates of alcohol abuse in the county, drinking a quarter more per head than the rest of the country.

It has been estimated that a minimum pricing policy might save around 10,000 lives a year.