Improving alcohol awareness in Plymouth

As we mark Alcohol Awareness Week (17-23 November 2014) a range of initiatives are taking place across Plymouth to address problem drinking.

Partners across Plymouth have signed up to a five year (2013-18) Strategic Alcohol Plan and one year into the scheme there is great progress being made.

Plymouth City Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Northern, Eastern, and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, and Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (formerly Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust) are all signed up to the strategy to reduce the impact of alcohol on Plymouth.

Schemes within the strategy include working with local bars and off licenses to monitor the night time economy with initiatives such as Pubwatch, to providing training for a range of professionals to be able to recognise the signs of alcohol problems, to education in schools, and rehabilitation services for those who need it. Plymouth also recently launched the Reducing the Strength campaign aimed at encouraging retailers to stop selling cheap, super-strength beers and ciders.

Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Public Health at Plymouth City Council, said: “Here in Plymouth we are working hard with our partners in health, voluntary sector and police to address the issues caused by alcohol including treating those who need help, but also ensuring through early intervention and prevention we educate people of the dangers of alcohol from a young age. Alcohol Awareness Week provides us with the ideal opportunity to reiterate the messages about safer drinking, but also to celebrate some of the great work that is going on in Plymouth.

“As the Public Health lead for the city, Plymouth City Council recognises that excessive drinking is one of the four lifestyle behaviours (along with smoking, inactivity and poor diet) that causes four chronic diseases, leading to 54% of deaths in the city. That is why we have recently launched our Thrive Plymouth ten year public health strategy for the city.

“We have a number of measures in place including providing alcohol education in schools, working with bars and clubs to promote responsible drinking, we are also working with local traders to encourage them to sign up to a voluntary scheme to stop selling Super-Strength beer and cider in the City. There is also training for professionals to recognise people who may be experiencing problems with alcohol.

“Finally, we would encourage people to sign up in advance to Dry January – not only will it make you feel better and perhaps think about moderating your drinking following Christmas and New Year celebrations, it will also raise funds for a fantastic cause – Alcohol Concern. Find out more here.

Excessive drinking is one of 4 lifestyle behaviours which lead to 54% of deaths in Plymouth.

Chief Superintendent Andy Boulting, Plymouth police commander for Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Alcohol misuse is a massive problem for the health and safety of those consuming excessive alcohol or alcohol of excessive strength. The impact is also devastating for the families, children and communities affected. We know that this ruins lives and is too often the cause of crime and antisocial behaviour.”

The Police will shortly be running their annual Drink Drive awareness campaign in the run up to Christmas.

Jeremy Prichard is Chief Executive of The Harbour Centre, which provides integrated community based treatment and support services for people who are affected by their use of alcohol. This includes recovery, harm reduction, prevention, advice and education regarding alcohol and other substances.

Mr Prichard said: “Whilst society promotes the use of alcohol it is not very good at dealing with its adverse effects. The cost of not dealing with alcohol issues in the community is enormous. The NHS, Public Health and Social Services pick up the pieces, while families are destroyed by alcohol misuse.”

Plymouth Community Healthcare offers Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) training for a range of professionals and volunteers in the city. IBA is an evidence based intervention directed at people drinking at increasing and higher risk levels who are not typically seeking help for an alcohol problem.

Cathryn Keeble, a Specialist Health Improvement Practitioner for Plymouth Community Healthcare, who has undergone the IBA training, said: “My training helped me to work with a lady I met, Sandra, to identify her risks and reduce them. Sandra was drinking two glasses of wine every night after work, but it was a large glass (250ml), which meant she was having six units of alcohol every night. The recommended units for a woman is no more than two to three units per day. The six units put her into the high risk category and she was also putting on considerable weight because of this.

“As a result of this discussion, Sandra reduced her alcohol intake and explored other ways to relax such as having a relaxing bath.”

Hamoaze House provides structured detoxification programmes with clinical support to help people stop drinking, as well as both group and one to one support.

John Hamblin, Chief Executive of Shekinah Mission, the charity which provides support to vulnerable adults in Plymouth, and a key partner in Plymouth’s Reducing the Strength campaign. Mr Hamblin said: “On a daily basis Shekinah witnesses the devastating impact that alcohol abuse has not only on individuals, but also on families and the local community. Whilst there is no simple answer to this, removing from sale, low cost high strength alcohol would be small step in the right direction.”

Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company, another partner in the strategy, works with offenders to provide both residential and non-residential treatment for those with alcohol problems, usually for a minimum of six months (though this varies according to the seriousness of the crime.

A spokesperson for Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company said: “The main purpose of the Alcohol Treatment Requirement is rehabilitation. The aim is to reduce or eliminate alcohol dependency.”

If you want to sign up for Dry January, and raise funds for Alcohol Concern, go to

More information about the new ten year public health strategy, Thrive Plymouth, is available at