I speak first as the co-chair of the drugs, alcohol and justice cross-party group and as a member of the all-party group on alcohol harm. Earlier this month, a major review revealed that one in 10 people in a hospital bed in this country is alcohol dependent, and that one in five is doing themselves harm by drinking. In response to the review Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
“More than 80 people die of alcohol-related causes across the UK every day, and there are more than 1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions every year in England alone.”
We urge the Government to prioritise reducing the harm that alcohol causes. They need to take action and introduce targeted, evidence-based measures, including minimum unit pricing to raise the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol products.
The massive burden that alcohol puts on the NHS highlights the need for the urgent adoption of measures presented in the alcohol charter, which was launched by the drugs, alcohol and justice group and the all-party group on alcohol harm and is supported by more than 30 organisations. However, the Government have not produced their promised alcohol strategy. They have postponed ministerial meetings to discuss the charter and barely mentioned alcohol in their new prevention Green Paper. I very much hope that the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and, indeed, Ministers across Government, including from the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education—they all have a part to play—will adopt a more enlightened approached. A serious, joined-up approach based on the charter recommendations could reduce the blight of alcohol harm significantly.
Let me turn to other issues. Together with colleagues from across the House, I have raised the issue of access to the drug Spinraza for patients with spinal muscular atrophy. Yesterday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published its final guidance on the drug. There is good news for those patients who will soon start to access the drug through the managed-access agreement, which must be implemented quickly and fairly, but it is disappointing that it does not include full access for SMA types 1, 2 and 3. We look forward to further clinical evidence being gathered, with a view to future positive changes being made to the managed-access agreement eligibility criteria. NICE and NHS England can expect continued pressure for those changes from MPs, as well as from patients, carers and clinicians—in fact, from all those involved in Muscular Dystrophy UK, TreatSMA, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK. The objective is access to Spinraza for all who need it, and the campaign will continue until that goal is reached.
Finally, I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating Depaul on its 30th anniversary, which was celebrated in the Lords yesterday. Depaul runs fantastic services for homeless young people in North Tyneside and throughout the UK. Its work is guided by the belief that no matter what they have been through, young people can reach their potential if they have a safe, stable home and a support network that they can depend on. When the House returns, I will carry on working with Depaul UK to make the case for more Government investment in homelessness prevention, such as the Nightstop volunteer host service, and for a fairer welfare system in which young people do not have to wait five weeks for their first universal credit payment and in which local housing allowance is unfrozen and is worth at least the 30th percentile of local rents.
I wish everybody an enjoyable and fruitful time during the summer. I do hope that everyone finds time to pursue some relaxation during this recess.