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PM vows to tackle booze Britain
David Cameron has declared war on booze Britain during a visit to a hospital.
The Prime Minister pledged to tackle the growing "scandal" of alcohol-fuelled disorder when he met doctors, nurses, paramedics and local police at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to highlight the cost of alcohol to the NHS.
He toured the hospital - which has a policeman on duty every Thursday and Friday night to handle incidents of drunken disorder on the wards - with matron Angela McNab and paramedic Paul Fell.
Mr Cameron said: "The facts are pretty stark.
"Alcohol costs the NHS almost ?3 billion a year; that is a cost of ?90 to every taxpayer.
"This has a huge impact on the NHS and a huge impact on accident and emergency which every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night are overrun by people who are drunk and incapable.
"We need to do more to tackle this problem.
"We are going to look at the issue of alcohol pricing. I'm quite convinced there is deep discounting of alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores and that it is causing part of the problem.
"We need to take action right across the board. I want to make sure local councils have the power to close down bars that are causing a problem and that police can step in if they need to because it is against the law to sell to people who are drunk or underage.
"We also need to look at the issue of pricing. This is a national problem."
Figures today show an ever-growing bill for the NHS, which currently stands at ?2.7 billion a year - including ?1 billion on accident and emergency services.
That equates to ?90 for every taxpayer, while the wider cost to society of alcohol abuse is estimated to be between ?17 billion and ?22 billion.
In the last year there were 200,000 hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions, while the number of people treated for extreme drunkenness more than doubled to 18,500.
In the North East, alcohol-related deaths have tripled in the last two decades.
Every 18 hours, one person dies in the North East from alcohol-related illnesses.
Mr Cameron is known to be attratced to proposals under which the sale of alcohol below between 40p and 50p a unit would be banned.
The Prime Minister is examining Scottish moves to outlaw its sale below 45p a unit, as well as a plan to link taxes on drinks to their strength.