Suffolk’s Reducing the Strength campaign praised in Nuffield Trust report on alcohol-related burden facing hospitals

The presentation of a previous Reducing the Strength award, (l-r) Jamie Treloar, security manager at

The presentation of a previous Reducing the Strength award, (l-r) Jamie Treloar, security manager at East of England Co-op; Chief Superintendent Jon Brighton; Roger Grosvenor and Superintendent Andrew Mason at the Suffolk Police Headquarters in Martlesham. - Credit: Archant

A pioneering scheme tackling street drinking in Suffolk has been praised in a report as an effective way to combat the increasing alcohol-related burden facing England’s hospitals.

Reducing the Strength logo

Reducing the Strength logo - Credit: Contributed

The Nuffield Trust’s report published this week found the number of hospital admissions related to alcohol poisoning had doubled between 2008/09 and 2013/14, placing increasing demands on the NHS.

One of the report’s recommendations to tackle the problem is for police, councils and health teams to collaborate. It highlights Reducing the Strength, a campaign first launched in Suffolk in 2012 as an example of a scheme likely to “help reduce health inequalities”.

The campaign has seen off-licences across the county, particularly in Ipswich and other town centres, being urged to sign up and stop selling super-strength alcohol at low prices in a bid to reduce the problems associated with street drinking.

Suffolk Constabulary’s Superintendent Andrew Mason said the campaign had seen all but one licenced premises in Ipswich sign up to the scheme, yielding “significant benefits” for the town.

Reducing the Strength logo

Reducing the Strength logo - Credit: Contributed

“I think Suffolk should be proud of Reducing the Strength,” he added.

“It’s good for the county and its inclusion on this report is a great reflection of the multi-agency work that had gone on and the tangible benefits it has brought.”

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Supt Mason said the scheme has been particularly successful in reducing daytime street drinkers in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, making those town centres more attractive while reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.

Before its launch, he said Ipswich had 13 recognised problem areas relating to street drinking, which had now been reduced to one.

Essex Police's PC Michael Lee, Magdalen Street Tesco Express employee Carron Davies, Tesco Team Lead

Essex Police's PC Michael Lee, Magdalen Street Tesco Express employee Carron Davies, Tesco Team Leader Andrew Carter, PCSO Aaron Hunter, and Safer Colchester Partnership's Caroline Clarke team up for the reducing the strength campaign that urges supermarkets and off-licences not to sell super-strength alcohol. - Credit: Su Anderson

Suffolk Constabulary has worked alongside retailers, the NHS in Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council to deliver the campaign, by reducing the availability of cheap alcohol and offering support to problem drinkers.

Simon Aalders, Public Health engagement manager at Suffolk County Council, said he was “really pleased” with the campaign and the wider efforts to reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking.

He highlighted several “Vulnerability Nights” when public health teams working with voluntary organisations such as the Town Pastors and St John’s Ambulance attended towns including Ipswich on busy occasions to help people who have drunk too much.

“These nights have become very successful in diverting people away from hospital,” he said.

“We’ve worked proactively to intervene when people have got themselves into a situation where they’ve drunk too much and become quite vulnerable in terms of their behaviour and level of intoxication.”

Mr Aalders said the number of street drinkers in Ipswich had declined from 75 prior to the launch of Reducing the Strength to 21 last month, which was a positive indication of the campaign’s success.

Ipswich Borough Council has also welcomed the effects of the scheme.

Neil MacDonald, the borough’s Safer Ipswich portfolio-holder, said Reducing the Strength had “enjoyed a lot of success”, with anti–social behaviour falling by almost three quarters over two years.

“Businesses and residents have also reported a big drop in incidents,” he added. “Our campaign has also attracted support from other councils and police forces, who have now set up their own schemes.”