PRIME Minister David Cameron yesterday vowed to tackle the growing “scandal” of alcohol-fuelled disorder during a visit to a North-East hospital.

Speaking at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle, he highlighted the cost of alcohol to the NHS after meeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers.

Mr Cameron toured the hospital, which has a police officer on duty two nights a week to handle drunken incidents, with matron Angela McNab and paramedic Paul Fell.

Mr Cameron said: "The facts are pretty stark.

"Alcohol costs the NHS almost £3bn a year. That is a cost of £90 to every taxpayer.

"This has a huge impact on the NHS and a huge impact on accident and emergency, which every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night are overrun by people who are drunk and incapable.

"We need to do more to tackle this problem.

"We are going to look at the issue of alcohol pricing.

There is deep discounting of alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores that is causing part of the problem.

“We need to take action right across the board. I want to make sure local councils have the power to close down bars that are causing a problem and that police can step in if they need to.”

Sue Taylor from Balance, the North-East’s alcohol office, welcomed Mr Cameron’s visit to the North-East. Alcohol- related deaths in the region have tripled in the past two decades, and figures show that every 18 hours, one person dies in the North-East from alcohol-related illnesses.

She said: “It is really important that the Prime Minister has come to see the problem.

“Innovative local solutions are helpful, but this problem is so big that we need to introduce preventative measures at a population level.

“These are the measures that must be part of the upcoming alcohol strategy and include a minimum price per unit of alcohol, an approach which has reportedly drawn interest from Mr Cameron, and preventing the alcohol industry from recruiting our children via marketing.”

Mr Cameron is known to be attracted to proposals under which the sale of alcohol below between 40p and 50p a unit would be banned.

The Prime Minister is examining Scottish moves to outlaw its sale below 45p a unit, as well as a plan to link taxes on drinks to their strength.

Balance published the results of a survey yesterday to coincide with Mr Cameron’s visit. The research showed that, for the first time, 56 per cent of North-Easterners support the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol, an increase of seven per cent since 2010.

The study also showed that 35 per cent of North-Easterners say supermarket alcohol is too cheap, with 13 per cent saying it is too expensive.

Mark Anderson, the managing director of the Maxim Brewery, a micro-brewery based near Durham City, welcomed minimum pricing, but said it had to be reasonable.

He said: “Nobody wants beer to be sold at less than cost price.

“People forget sometimes that the majority of people are sensible, social drinkers.”