Thursday, 18 February 2010

Scrutiny review on impact of alcohol launched

One of the issues I have been campaigning on in Reading is improving public health. This is closely linked to my passion for tackling inequality and campaigning for a fairer Reading. As Chair of the Housing, Health and Community Care Scrutiny Panel since 2008 I have led a number of scrutiny reviews on health issues in Reading including recent investigations into dementia care services, the local ambulance service and children's health. You can find out more about the campaigning I've been involved in on health issues over the past few years over on my ward blog.

As Vice-Chair of the Council's Corporate, Community & External Affairs Panel I have been involved in scoping a new scrutiny review that has been launched: into the impact of alcohol. The review to be led by councillors will investigate the impact of alcohol consumption on local families and communities - a huge issue, I think you'll agree. It will also assess the treatment services that are currently provided in the Reading area. The Council is currently developing an 'alcohol strategy' which our scrutiny review will help inform.

As part of the review an open meeting is planned to take place at the Civic Offices on Saturday 6 March between 10 am and 2pm. The meeting is open to members of the public. Please do come along if you are free. It is really important that the views of local people are included in the review. Following the open meeting the Panel will agree recommendations - to the Council's Cabinet but also hopefully health bodies and other partners.

So why is this issue so important? Some startling facts about the impact of alcohol in Reading taken from the scoping document we discussed last night:
  • In 2008 Reading had the highest level of recorded crime attributable to alcohol in the South East (17.28% compared to average of 9.18% in the region)
  • Anti-social behaviour related to alcohol use is a priority for 50% of Neighbourhood Action Groups in Reading (Tilehurst East, Oxford Road North, Town Centre, Newtown, Oxford Road South, Redlands, University and Katesgrove)
  • A 6.8% increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions between 2008/9 and 2007/8 was recorded
  • 68% of alcohol-related admissions in Reading are for chronic conditions
  • The largest number of hospital admissions occurs in the older age groups (over 35yrs)
The figures above show that alcohol has a big impact on health and public safety in Reading and affects many people in the community. Concerns have been raised locally about whether or not enough resources are put into helping people who are struggling with alcohol - compared to drugs. We will investigate what support is available in the course of the view. I hope we will be hearing from people who have used local services as well as those that deliver them.

I look forward to participating in this review and I'm hopeful it will help inform what Reading Borough Council, the Police and the Primary Care Trust do in the future to help reduce the harmful impacts of alcohol on the community.

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