Alcohol effects costing city £86m

Having one pint too many and other drinking habits leads to employees not making it to work. Picture: Getty
Having one pint too many and other drinking habits leads to employees not making it to work. Picture: Getty
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THE Capital is suffering an £86 million hangover, according to a new report into the real cost of alcohol to the city.

Experts reckon that’s how much is lost in economic output by “presenteeism” – when an employee’s performance is weakened by the after-effects of alcohol – as well as absenteeism, drink-related sickness, unemployment and premature death caused by alcohol.

The total financial hit from excess booze consumption, spelled out in a new council report, was revealed as a new strategy aimed at tackling the scourge of problem drinking across Edinburgh was launched.

Public health, social work, licensing and education chiefs will join forces with the emergency services to draw up plans to encourage workers to drink less.

The drive will examine a range of laws and policies, including advice and services offered in GP surgeries and other primary care settings, the drink-drive limit, minimum pricing and curbing the availability of booze.

Leading health figures have voiced alarm at the economic impact of alcohol misuse, but said they were not surprised at the scale of the loss. Welcoming moves towards a comprehensive anti-booze strategy, Dr Jean Turner, a former 
GP and executive director of the Scotland Patients 
Association, said: “Any intervention that can in a way reduce the cost of this to the city, as well as to families is crucial.

“When people who are supposed to be at work and are maybe high-powered folk, are not sharp enough because of the use of alcohol, they may not make the right decisions.

“There may be hidden financial costs because of poor judgement, as well as people not turning up to work, meaning that other people are having to do their jobs, or having to take on extra work.”

But she warned the issue of problem drinking was deeply entrenched throughout Edinburgh and Scotland, and said effective intervention would require a long-term commitment.

“It’s worth it to spend money to try to get people off 
alcohol, but it’s no quick process,” she said. “Throwing money at short-term political things that look good will 
not work. You need to sustain the effort within the community setting, and to be able to offer residential beds sometimes.”

City chiefs said a robust strategy covering all of Edinburgh would be needed in the months and years to come.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, health and social care leader, said: “The negative effects of the misuse of alcohol, on the city as well as on individuals is laid bare in this report.

“It is clear that these issues have a far-reaching effect on people of all ages and social backgrounds.

“The council has a duty to promote citizens’ health and wellbeing, but at the same time, a desire to encourage business development and to support financial growth of the city as a whole.”

He added: “Talks are at the early stages between services within the council about how we reduce alcohol-related harm and support the economic development of our city at the same time.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com