Friday, 23 March 2012

Lies Damned Lies and Statistics, Part 3 or

Minimum Unit Price … MUP … a MUPpet initiative from a Muppet Administration.

Well the media has had a field day with David Cameron's announcement of minimum pricing for alcohol, whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Theresa May's pathetic attempt to divert attention from the Budget and divert the news cycle away from the Granny Grab tax changes.

A Department of Health Press release for the day estimated that reducing the number of units of alcohol sold by 1 billion would save a 1,000 lives a year and the Health Secretary announced that 
“Last year there were 1.2 million admissions to hospital associated with alcohol.”

HMG's pincer movement in the battle against alcohol abuse of the MUP (at a stupidly low level of 40p … see my earlier thoughts) and the Public Health Responsibility Deal an arrangement with the big drinks manufacturers to cut the strength of various lines of beer, wine and cider is typical of the the disjointed thinking of this administration. 

The press release came with a plethora of headline grabbing statistics pointing to or further alerting us to the demon drink … but is this the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Andrew Lansley's quote is a classic piece of political spin 1.2 million hospital admissions doesn’t mean that the same number of people are in A&E etc because of alcohol, as anyone who has been admitted to hospital whilst managing a health problem several times means the absolute number of patients will always be less than the number of recorded admissions.

You also have to take into account the way that admissions are recorded and the way that NHS statisticians manipulate these figures anecdotal evidence collected by FactCheck suggests that "analysts decided that a certain fraction of people who, say, fall over and twist their ankle, do so because they are drunk."

They go on to say "what the analysts do next is to assign a value based on the estimated likelihood of a certain percentage of injuries or illnesses being caused or exacerbated by alcohol to every patient. So if you fall over and twist your ankle for whatever reason you become a fraction – 0.22 per cent of a single drunk patient. And that number is then multiplied by all the people admitted to hospital for falls. It follows that, if the total number of patients admitted to hospital goes up, then the portion of those admissions theoretically attributed to alcohol automatically goes up too."

Since when does this equate to 1.2 million admissions related to alcohol? They don't as the NHS has stated that only 25% of "alcohol related admissions" were "wholly attributable to alcohol consumption". In the 2010 figures this meant 265,000 not 1.2 million! Further NHS reports also show that only of these admissions only 25% of those were attributed to a "primary diagnosis" as an alcohol specific condition. (For those of you without a calculator to hand this is just over 68,000).

Having looked at these figures I have decided that the rest of HMG's claims about fewer deaths probably won't stand up either, no so no need to spend hour upon hour trawling the net.  

What I did look at is the Introduction to the Government's Alcohol Strategy as it claims this startling piece of information:

but hides the Office of National Statistics reported change in alcohol consumption (or "clearances" as it calls them) in the UK as percentage changes recently: 2005/06 -2%, 2006/07 -1.3%, 2007/08 +1.2% and finally 2008/09 -7.2%.

So starting from a base point in 2005 alcohol consumption over the period to 2009 actually fell by a cumulative figure of 9.16% … okay so we pissed it up since the fifties but consumption in this country is falling.

Don't be fooled by the New Puritans or their political mouth-pieces and make sure you tell your customers the truth when they discuss it with you … as they surely will.

In the interim did you know that you can apply for a free £85 worth of resources, including a natty "Unit Measure Cup" to illustrate to your staff and customers what different drinks equate to in layperson's terms?

Go to DrinkAware to take up this offer get more information that will help you be a more responsible retailer than you probably are already.

Finally a huge thank you to Patrick Worral (Fact Check) for putting this train of thought in motion.

Now if Waldorf and Statler  (Cameron and Clegg) can just provide me with another opportunity to reference them as Muppets ... still that shouldn't be too long, should it eh?

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