NHS staff to try an alcohol-free January

Dry January logo

19 / 12 / 2013 Midnight

At least 30 NHS trusts employing around 140,000 people today begin helping their staff go alcohol-free at the start of the new year, marking the launch of the first co-ordinated Dry January campaign within the NHS.

NHS Employers and Public Health England are working with Alcohol Concern to take the charity’s Dry January campaign into the heart of the NHS. This pilot will support trusts to increase staff wellbeing and to lead by example, as the nation looks to the NHS for examples on how to stay healthy.

Long-term alcohol use is a serious health risk and lost productivity and absenteeism due to alcohol costs the economy 17 million working days and £7 billion a year(1). It is estimated that around a quarter of people in the UK drink above the lower risk guidelines, we know NHS staff consumption will be fairly typical of the wider population.

Dry January 2014 will provide ongoing support to the pilot trusts and other NHS organisations that are coming forward and asking to participate. This includes:

  • Thirty-one days of daily tips and inspiring ideas to help keep the abstinence going.
  • Expert panel Q&A sessions provided throughout January by Alcohol Concern.
  • Posters, other promotional material and guidance from NHS Employers.
  • More resources on the Change for Life website provided by Public Health England.
  • An active social media campaign running throughout January @dryjanuary
Dean Royles, Chief Executive of the NHS Employers organisation, who himself will be alcohol-free throughout January, said:

"It's hard to talk about alcohol consumption without sounding like a killjoy at Christmas time, when people’s shopping trolleys are filling up with festive favourites. It is a really important health issue and right that we help set a good example.

“This season is always tough on the NHS and alcohol plays a big part in this. It increases demand on A&E and puts pressure on staff, who want to enjoy the celebrations without it affecting their life-saving work. The alcohol consumption of NHS staff is pretty typical of the wider population but I’m confident many will go the extra mile and have a Dry January, helping signpost others to change where alcohol has become a habit. The health and wellbeing of staff is important to us and this is just one way we can help the NHS show leadership in an important public health debate.”

Emily Robinson, Deputy Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said: 

“It’s really exciting to see the NHS leading by example and taking up our Dry January challenge. Many of us don’t realise that having just a few beers after work or a few glasses of wine at home too often can store up future health problems. 

“So it’s vital that we start a new and honest conversation about our drinking and it makes perfect sense for health care professionals and other NHS employees to be spearheading this. 

“Dry January is not about never drinking again, it’s just the perfect opportunity for all of us to take a breather and get thinking about our drinking. We think people will feel better, lose weight and save money.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Public Health England is pleased to support NHS Employers in promoting uptake of Alcohol Concern’s Dry January campaign by staff at pilot sites across England.  Our input includes an evaluation and research exercise designed to assess the effectiveness of the campaign in changing behaviour and reducing alcohol consumption by participants in the longer term.  

“In order to keep the health risks from alcohol low, people who drink really need to do so within the Chief Medical Officer’s lower-risk levels for the rest of the year too. Going dry in January can provide an opportunity to reassess drinking patterns, break any bad habits and ‘reset the dial’ on alcohol consumption for a healthier future.”

Drinking within the Chief Medical Officer’s lower risk guidelines can significantly reduce risk of cancer, liver damage, heart disease and other serious health risks(1). But even a short-term period without alcohol can have many benefits including: improved sleep; weight loss; improved skin and hair quality and; saving money.

We believe social media can play a big part and we are already seeing the benefits of promoting the uptake of flu jabs through twitter.

Notes to Editors

(1) NICE - Alcohol-use disorders: preventing harmful drinking report 2010.

(2) More information about alcohol risk. 

Dry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Concern, for more information and to sign up go to www.dryjanuary.org.uk. Join the conversation on Twitter: @dryjanuary.org.uk and Facebook.com/DryJanuary.

The Change for Life web site. 

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