Westminster Health Forum

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Reducing alcohol dependence in the UK - latest thinking on service integration, marketing and public health messaging, and learning from the impact of COVID-19

December 2020

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference will discuss the key issues and latest thinking on strategies for reducing alcohol dependence in the UK.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with Parliamentary attendees and officials from DHSC; HMPPS and the Welsh Government.

The discussion at a glance:

  • COVID-19 - the impact of on alcohol consumption and dependence in the UK
  • learning from the pandemic - from how alcohol and addiction support services have adapted their offering during the pandemic - including identifying risk and supporting vulnerable groups
  • healthy attitudes towards alcohol consumption - how they can best be encouraged
  • coordinating support - latest thinking on improving the links between mental health, alcohol misuse and wider gambling and drug addiction services
  • reducing inequalities - priorities and strategies, including the possible impact of service integration on supporting early intervention
  • public health and regulation - the way forward for messaging, and options for strengthening marketing restrictions
  • business responsibility - how it can be supported

Context and developments at a glance:

  • COVID-19 - findings from Kantar of growth in home-consumed alcohol following introduction of the 10pm curfew and from MIND of a dramatic impact of lockdown on the nation’s mental health
  • Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK - the Institute of Alcohol Studies reporting a reduction in the number of clients seeking drug and alcohol treatment during the first lockdown, with concerns over the accessibility of remote, digital support
  • Addiction services not equipped to treat the 8m million people drinking at high risk during pandemic - warning from the Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • the obesity strategy - committing to consulting on introducing calorie labelling on alcohol
  • prevention - the Drink Free Days app as part of the One You campaign, in line with plans in the Government’s prevention green paper to reduce the harm from problem drinking
  • health information - the alcohol risk assessment in the NHS Health Check and PHE’s All Our Health detailing strategic and intervention-level approaches available to improve population health
  • support for hospitals - establishment of Alcohol Care Teams in NHS England’s Long Term Plan
  • commissioning and reducing inequalities - PHE’s Local Alcohol Profiles for England designed to provide data to support commissioning and improve health and wellbeing
  • The Independent review of drugs - launch of phase two, which will consider the provision of treatment and recovery services for drug users with part one partly highlighting links between alcohol and drug misuse
  • Drinking in the dark: How alcohol labelling fails consumers - from the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), calling for the government to overhaul the current system
  • ‘It’s everywhere’ - alcohol’s public face and private harm - the AHA-backed Commission on Alcohol Harm report calling for a new comprehensive government alcohol strategy in wake of COVID-19, and a reduction in price promotions with an increased alcohol duty

Areas for discussion:

The impact of COVID-19
What has been learned and can be applied to improve services in the future:

  • continuity of care - how the impact of lockdown has been managed for those who are at risk, or alcohol dependent and without their existing support networks
  • future demand - implications for services of changes in in consumption habits and affected groups during the pandemic
  • adaptation - how NHS, public health and third sector support services have innovated during the pandemic, including in supporting vulnerable groups and identifying at-risk behaviour
  • lockdown - dealing with the impact of social distancing, isolation, and restrictions on movement on mental health and linked substance misuse
  • remote services - assessing the impact of the move online on uptake of services, and the future for blended support approaches where face-to-face delivery cannot take place

Reducing inequalities and integrating service delivery

  • supporting collaboration - strategies for more closely linking mental health, public health, alcohol and addiction teams, and what more can be done to identify those at risk and intervene earlier
  • personalised care - next steps for involving patients within care plans, taking a holistic approach and utilising social prescribing to improve outcomes
  • local approaches - tailoring commissioning and service delivery based on data and evolving trends
  • the digital divide - the impact on inequalities of services moving online for vulnerable groups that may not have access
  • learning from best practice:
    • Alcohol Care Teams (ACTs) - their work as they are rolled out more widely to provide specialist input into the care of alcohol-dependent patients in hospital
    • looking at reviews in other areas of addiction, such as the Independent review of drugs
    • devolved nations and regions - how they are tackling alcohol dependence and what can be learnt from innovation in care delivery

Public health messages and marketing restrictions

  • behaviour change - latest thinking on the role and use of public health messages and strategies, looking at:
    • effectiveness - National Institute for Health Research findings suggesting messages could reflect how and why patients drink, rather than simply focusing on consumption levels
    • heavy drinking - calls for more relevant public health campaigns to raise awareness of the long-term consequences and the promotion of digital campaigns
  • regulation - options for changing current marketing guidance and restrictions to discourage harmful drinking and reduce consumption, in light of
    • WHO finding that regulation is not keeping pace with how alcohol marketing in Europe is adapting to new online opportunities
    • minimum unit pricing (MUP) - Public Health Scotland’s evaluation that alcohol sales have maintained the lowest level since recording began in 1994

The agenda:

  • Alcohol consumption and harm in the UK, and the impact of COVID-19
  • Adapting alcohol and addiction support services during the pandemic - supporting vulnerable groups, identifying risk, maintaining continuity, and working with third sector and NHS partners
  • Improving the link between mental health, alcohol dependence and wider gambling and drug addiction services - reducing inequalities, integrating services, supporting early intervention
  • The role of public health messages, marketing restrictions and behavioural science in driving change
  • Next steps for reducing alcohol dependence in England ­- responding to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and supporting vulnerable groups

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved from the House of Commons, and officials from the Department of Health and Social Care; Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service and the Welsh Government.

For this meeting we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, and senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with representatives from public health, NHS and executive agencies, patient groups, the alcohol industry, the independent and third sectors, local authorities, and others affected by the issues discussed as well as academics and think tanks, and reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles