Doctors in the north east of England, one of the areas worst affected by alcohol harm, have called for a 50p minimum price per unit.
The call by medics in the area is higher than the 40p per unit, which has been suggested as a minimum alcohol price for England and Wales.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the prime minister has backed a 40p per unit minimum price, which the Home Office claims would mean “50,000 fewer crimes each year by the end of the decade”.
In Scotland the devolved government recently passed legislation to set a 50p per unit minimum price. That legislation is now facing a legal challenge from Bulgaria and the Scotch Whisky Association is seeking a judicial review.
A group of leading medics from the North East including Dr George Rae, the chairman of the British Medical Association North East, have signed an open letter to the prime minister calling for a 50p per unit minimum price.
Dr Rae said: “A minimum unit price, as a key part of wider alcohol strategy, would have a huge impact on tackling the North East’s heavy drinking culture.
“Unfortunately, the North East often finds itself at the top of the league when it comes to alcohol harm.
“If we’re serious about changing this situation, we need to let government know that the North East supports a minimum unit price of at least 50p.”
A survey for Balance the North East Alcohol Office found that seven out of 10 GPs in the region believed increasing the price of alcohol would reduce the damage to health caused by alcohol, with eight out of 10 GPs supporting a minimum price per unit.
Dr Rae added: “I am seeing younger people with liver disease and people in their 20s with gout from drinking lager – things I never saw at the start of my career, and all due to alcohol.”
According to Balance, the North East has the highest rate of hospital admissions and male alcohol-related deaths in England and almost half of all crime and domestic violence in the region is alcohol-related.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Cheap alcohol is having a devastating impact on the North East; it’s ending lives, putting people in hospital, fuelling crime and threatening the future of our children and young people.
“A minimum unit price of at least 50p will make cheap, strong alcohol less affordable to the vulnerable younger and heavier drinkers who are more likely to drink it and suffer the consequences.
“It’s no surprise that our region’s GPs, who are entrusted with our health and wellbeing, overwhelmingly support this measure.”