This project will estimate the costs that alcohol use imposes on the National Health Service (NHS) through Primary Care (PC) in England. We will examine in detail the consultations and prescriptions that could be avoided by reductions in alcohol consumption. This will include examining general practitioner contacts and prescribing for 43 different diseases that are either fully or partly caused by alcohol. The results will show how alcohol has a long-term impact on PC budgets.

We will bring new data and new methods to bear on the problem of estimating the costs of alcohol to PC. The project will be the first to combine national-level data on PC medical records, hospital admissions, alcohol use, and costs to produce a robust estimate of alcohol costs to PC.

In the UK and worldwide, there is a need for accurate, up-to-date information on the costs of alcohol to PC. This evidence might help to close the priority gap between action on alcohol and tobacco in PC by showing the potential financial gains from action on alcohol. This information is important because the actions on alcohol in PC depend on policy makers’ and practitioners’ understanding of the costs of alcohol to society.

NHS resources are stretched more now than ever before and the NHS in England spends around £9 billion a year each on general practice and prescriptions. Alcohol-related health problems are most commonly identified in PC and in many cases (e.g. hypertension) managed within PC. This project will estimate the cost to society that alcohol imposes through PC, and in doing so will provide evidence that might help to facilitate better, more cost-effective, decisions around PC action on alcohol.

This project is funded by Alcohol Research UK and involves researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Nottingham.