pint of beer
Price of a pint going up?

Government plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing would save more than 1,000 lives and see a reduction in the number of hospital admissions by more than 38,000, according to a report by medical experts.

The government announced in March that it was planning to introduce a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol for England and Wales.

An article on the British Medical Journal website said the plans would have a significant impact on the number of alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and consumption.

The report's author, John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, added that a minimum price of 50p per unit would more than double the effects of a 40p minimum price.

Appleby claimed the 40p minimum price would save 1,149 lives per year, cut the number of alcohol-related hospital submissions by 38,900 and reduce alcohol consumption by 2.4 percent per person on average.

He said that drink-related hospital admissions doubled in England between 2002 to 2010, to around 265,000 each year.

Alcohol-related deaths also increased between 2001 and 2008, from 5,476 to 6,769, but fell slightly in 2009 to 6,584.

The article, Drinking Nation: Have we had Enough?, also looked at the increase in spending on alcohol and consumption patterns since the 1960s.

From 1964-2004, the amount spent on drink doubled, before falling by 17 percent over the next five years, in the later stages, Appleby suggested, because of the recession.

It increased again slightly in 2010, to a total of £42.1bn - a third of the amount spent on the NHS each year - with each person over the age of 18 spending an average of £17 a week.

On the plus side, binge drinking among young men has seen a sharp decline since 1998.

"Whether or not these observations constitute a substantial problem now - given the lags in health and other effects of drinking and recent falls in consumption - the impacts of various price and non-price interventions to reduce drinking have been extensively modelled, and they show significant results," Appleby said.

The minimum price proposals have been criticised by the drinks industry, which claims that raising the minimum price would not significantly affect alcohol consumption and would have a disproportionate effect on poorer households.

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: "Minimum unit pricing will punish responsible consumers with higher prices. A 40p minimum unit price will impact only the bottom 30% of households by income group - hitting the poor hardest - and will do nothing to address the causes of alcohol misuse.

"There is no evidence to prove that minimum unit pricing will tackle alcohol misuse. The international evidence suggests that problem drinkers are least likely to be deterred by price rises."