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UK Government to review 24-hour drinking laws

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Home Office said it will "evaluate the impact" of the 24-hour licensing laws brought in at the end of 2005.

Last week a study showed admissions to an accident and emergency department in a London hospital had tripled since the laws were introduced.

Ministers had claimed the relaxation of the laws, in November 2005, would encourage a more civilised atmosphere in pubs and would promote a European-style cafe culture.

But the doctor who led the study said it showed 24-hour drinking was increasingly harming the public. Dr Alastair Newton, who works in the accident and emergency department at St Thomas' Hospital, said: '"The increase in alcohol-related problems we have recorded is the opposite of the effect the legislation was designed to produce.

"In addition, our data suggests that the legislation has also failed to achieve its intended improvement in public safety and reduction in alcohol-related crime and disorder."

In March 2005, 2,736 patients turned up to A&E at St Thomas' during the night. In March 2006, the number was slightly up at 3,135.

But the number attending A&E for alcohol-related reasons shot up at a much higher rate, from 79 to 250. That meant that in March 2006, 8% of casualty patients had been affected by alcohol, compared with 2.9% in March 2005.

Similarly, alcohol-related assaults went up from 27 cases to 62, while alcohol-related injuries increased from 44 to 129. There was some overlap between these categories.

The number admitted to a bed at the hospital for alcohol-related reasons was also up, from 24 cases to 71.

The authors said their findings were likely to be representative of inner- city A&E departments across the UK, adding that it meant the number turning up to casualty after drinking too much was likely to be "very substantial".