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MP calls on Government to increase health investment to tackle liver disease

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson is calling for increased investment in public health to tackle the rising cost of alcohol misuse and liver disease.

The Foundation for Liver Research claims that a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol would generate a £3bn boost to the economy in its first five years due to a decrease in alcohol consumption.

Obesity, another major cause of liver disease, was reported to have cost Sefton businesses more than £18m in 2016, and the Foundation is campaigning for action on the amount of fat and sugar in processed foods and a ban on price promotions for unhealthy food and drink in shops.

Mr Esterson said cuts to public health were making tackling the issue of liver disease much more difficult. He said: “The Government says it has protected NHS funding but that is not the case as demands on the service and inflation have risen far faster than funding. But with public health the funding has actually been cut since 2015.

“A total of £200m was cut in 2015, and by 2021 a further £351m will have been cut from support services such as those for alcohol and obesity, which are major causes of liver disease.

“Not tackling the root causes of alcohol misuse and obesity puts untold pressure on front-line NHS services. Critics says it is about personal responsibility and that is of course an important factor, but the evidence shows that prevention services work. Minimum pricing for alcohol works as does reducing the amount of fat and sugar in foods.

“Cuts to public health cost more money than they save. We know prevention is far better than cure.”

In Sefton, alcohol-related inpatient hospital admissions in Sefton cost £17m in 2015-16, which is higher than the national average. Alcohol-related road casualties in Merseyside cost £206m.

A total of 70 per cent of people in Sefton are overweight. Lost productivity due to obesity was said to have cost Sefton businesses more than £18m in 2016.

Hepatitis C is also a major cause of liver disease, and the MP has backed calls by the Foundation to make testing and immunisation more widely available for at-risk groups.

Mr Esterson said: “The evidence shows that alcohol misuse and obesity are affecting people’s health to an enormous extent and that is why we are seeing an increase in liver disease. The Government can help decrease alcohol consumption and obesity with the right public health interventions, and can help people living with Hepatitis C with better diagnosis and treatment schemes. We all have to take responsibility for the amount of alcohol we drink but better understanding and awareness from Government is also part of the answer.

“This is an area in which the Government must invest so that fewer people live with the damaging effects of liver disease. This investment would in turn will save money for frontline NHS services.”

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