The Health Minister Andrew Lansley was forced to defend his controversial "hands off" approach to public health yesterday as new figures revealed hospital admissions for alcohol-related diseases have doubled in the past seven years.
Nearly 1.2 million people in England needed in-patient hospital treatment for alcohol related cancers, liver diseases and poisoning in 2010-11 – a 9 per cent rise on the previous year. There have already been over 7,000 hospital admissions for young people under the age of 18 in 2011, according to figures released yesterday.
Mr Lansley was accused of pandering to big business by the opposition health team while ignoring advice from alcohol experts.
Diane Abbott, the shadow Public Health minister, said: "It is clear that this Government is rapidly pushing us towards a binge-drinking crisis."
Mr Lansley was widely criticised for including the drinks industry in his "responsibility deals" which aim to encourage voluntary changes by business rather than legislation to increase pricing and limit marketing. The Government spent nothing on raising public awareness about the dangers of alcohol last year as the Department of Health advertising budget was cut by more than 90 per cent.
But Mr Lansley accused Labour of taking their "eye off the ball" during their 13 years in power and promised a new alcohol strategy next year: "Their reckless policies, such as the decision to unleash a 24-hour drinking culture in our country, only made matters worse," he claimed.