DOCTORS from across the North-East are urging the government not to U-turn over introducing minimum alcohol unit pricing.

In two open letters to the Secretary of State for Health, the North East’s Directors for Public Health and Clinical Commissioning Group members say that the region has the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the country, costing the local NHS £264million per year.

They point out that introducing a minimum price of 50p per alcohol unit would raise the cost of cheap cider and vodka mostly bought by young people and harmful drinkers, and could save around 3,000 lives annually.

The letter comes as latest figures show that hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver disease have doubled in the North-East over the last decade and have increased by 400 per cent among people in their 20s and 30s.

Dr Steven Masson, Consultant Hepatologist at the Freeman Hospital’s Liver Transplant Unit, said the trend was extremely worrying.

“Only a few years ago this disease was extremely rare in people under 30 but unless our drinking habits change, the problem is only set to worsen,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately in many cases, by the time people are presenting with these symptoms to a specialist, the damage has already been done.

“And the damage is irreversible.”

Prime Minister David Cameron recently told MPs he would stop alcohol being sold cheaply in supermarkets but did not commit to setting a minimum unit price, sparking fears that the policy may be abandoned.

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