The findings come from a report published yesterday (30 May) by the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) in Australia, which compares and assesses alcohol licensing policies in both countries.
Hard-pressed A&E departments
Fourteen alcohol control policies were studied for their effectiveness in reducing harm and their value for money using an "alcohol availability scorecard". The lowest scoring policies were alcohol industry voluntary schemes and UK late-night levies.
Australia’s “Last Drinks” policy, which requires venues to restrict on-premises, such as pubs, alcohol sales after a specified time at night or in the early hours of the morning, scored highest.
IAS senior research and policy officer Jon Foster said: “Even modest reductions in bar opening times would take the pressure off hard-pressed A&E departments, which would undoubtedly welcome a 25% reduction in alcohol-related admissions, as happened in Australia.”
However, Kate Nichols, CEO of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has stated that around 70% of alcohol sold is consumed away from licensed premises, so any reduction on trading times is going to have "negligible effect on consumption".
"A study by Cambridge University in 2013 also showed there was no correlation between violent crime and flexible trading hours introduced by the Licensing Act," she said.
"There is no reason to suspect that forcing pubs and bars to close earlier is going to address any areas of alcohol-related harm.”
The report offers 10 recommendations for reducing alcohol-related harms including restricting trade hours of on-licence venues to limit the availability of alcohol in the early hours of the morning, better facilitating the engagement of local residents with licensing systems, and restricting the sales of high-risk products in areas of concern.
Kypros Kypri, professor of public health at University of Newcastle, Australia, said there is “strong evidence” to show that earlier closing times can make a significant difference to the strain alcohol places on emergency services.
“In Sydney, bringing forward closing times to 3am was associated with a 25% reduction in alcohol-related presentations to the local hospital,” he said.
The report comes days after the UK Independence Party (UKIP) announced its plans to “reduce the density of alcohol outlets and restrict trading times” if it wins the general election next month.
In its pre-election manifesto, the party said this was to “protect emergency workers from abuse” from intoxicated members of the public.