Cork GP highlights increase in alcohol-related patient visits and says new minimum pricing 'long-overdue' 

Cork GP highlights increase in alcohol-related patient visits and says new minimum pricing 'long-overdue' 

Dr Sheehan said people also began to drink more during the pandemic out of a sense of frustration and boredom and to cope with anxiety and stress.

A CORK GP has witnessed an increase in alcohol-related patient visits to the practice

Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery there was “certainly more alcohol use during the pandemic” and that people being home meant they didn’t have to drive to drop or collect people and were therefore inclined to drink more.

He said that people also began to drink more during the pandemic out of a sense of frustration and boredom and to cope with anxiety and stress.

Dr. John Sheehan. Picture Dan Linehan
Dr. John Sheehan. Picture Dan Linehan

Dr Sheehan was speaking following the announcement of the introduction of minimum alcohol prices under section 11 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 which will be signed later this week by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for commencement in the first week of January next year.

Minister Donnelly, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced the decision to increase the prices of low-cost, high-alcohol at a briefing yesterday.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr Sheehan said that he welcomed the Government’s announcement of the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol.

“I welcome the minimum pricing as a public health measure.

“Cost has shown to be one of the most effective deterrents in terms of changing behaviour so whether it’s smoking and the cost of cigarettes or alcohol and the cost of alcohol, it does have an effect, it’s been shown internationally to make a difference.”

Dr Sheehan said while it is “not a total solution by any stretch of the imagination”, that it is a way to stop supermarkets and larger retailers from using alcohol to attract people into their premises.

“Unfortunately, people who have alcohol addiction issues will tend to buy the cheapest alcohol that is the most concentrated so that’s where the minimum unit pricing will have some element of an effect in terms of reducing the capacity for people to buy that volume of alcohol so it’s a welcome initiative and it’s long overdue,” he said.

Reaction from publicans 

Publican Michael O'Donovan.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Publican Michael O'Donovan.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Meanwhile, Michael O’Donovan, owner of the Castle Inn on South Main Street and Cork city chair of the VFI, said that minimum unit pricing “won’t have an effect on publicans on the on-trade and is more directed at the off-trade.

“It will give people a more realistic view of a price point to what alcohol is because in many of the multiples they sell alcohol on promotions cheaper than what we can even buy it so it probably makes it a more level playing field,” he said.

TD and Sinn Féin’s spokesman on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould said that action was badly needed.

Thomas Gould TD Picture: Andy Gibson.
Thomas Gould TD Picture: Andy Gibson.

“25% of non-Covid ICU beds are taken with alcohol-related issues. That is a stark and shocking figure and shows just how badly action is needed.

“The Minister must now use the time until January to put intense pressure on his counterpart in the North because at the end of the day, an all-Island approach is the best approach,” he said.

Deputy Gould said that minimum unit pricing “should be only the beginning of our journey to protecting vulnerable people from alcohol-related harm in this state”.

Concerns 

Cllr. Ken O'Flynn. Picture Denis Minihane.
Cllr. Ken O'Flynn. Picture Denis Minihane.

Independent councillor Kenneth O’Flynn said that the Government’s introduction of MUP “comes from a place of misunderstanding and ignorance” and that the same approach taken in Scotland has “driven more people into poverty and also opened up avenues for criminality”.

“Mainland Europe, France, Spain don’t have a problem with alcohol and it’s significantly cheaper to go and buy a bottle of vodka in a supermarket in Spain or France, equally with wine.

“The reality is that our relationship with alcohol, yes must be discussed in a mature adult way but I think it has to be discussed in an adult way when it comes to educating people about alcohol,” he said.

Minister Donnelly also acknowledged that minimum unit pricing is not enough.

He said pathways must be put in place to help people with addiction and to ensure addiction services are properly funded and there are strong education and awareness programmes put in place.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more