Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 3:55 pm, 14th May 2019

My hon. Friend makes an eloquent and powerful point. She is absolutely right. It makes absolutely no sense to cut alcohol addiction services, as that fails a number of vulnerable people in society and only increases pressures on the wider NHS.

The NHS recognises the pressures on alcohol services. It announced in its long-term plan that it wanted to roll out alcohol care teams in hospitals—a proposal that I made at the Labour party conference last year. At the same time, public health budgets are cutting alcohol addiction services in our communities. Years of investment under the Labour Government in drug and alcohol treatment and recovery centres helped to reduce HIV, hepatitis and drug-related deaths, and also helped to reduce drug-related crime and wider social harms. Yet the number of those receiving treatment and in recovery for alcohol problems has fallen by 17% since 2013. When alcohol misuse costs wider society £18 billion a year in crime and lost productivity, and when drug misuse is also a factor in so much crime, surely these cuts represent the very worst type of short-term thinking—cutting proven preventive services for a short-term saving but ignoring the bigger and longer-term human and financial cost.

What about weight management programmes? The Government pride themselves on their obesity strategy, but when the NHS spends £5 billion on obesity, when there are 617,000 hospital admissions because of obesity, when 18% of hospital beds are occupied by a person with diabetes, when 25% of care home residents have diabetes, and when we have one of the worst childhood obesity rates in western Europe, why are weight management programmes being cut in communities? One GP told Pulse magazine:

“This is crazy. It makes conversations between GPs and patients very difficult. They say, “you tell me that I need to lose weight, but the only help you can give me is advice and a diet sheet printed off Google.”

Another GP told Pulse:

“You try to refer someone for bariatric surgery but they can only have it if they’ve undergone 12 months of a weight management programme—but there isn’t one.”