Responsibility Deal leaders shrug off health lobby exodus

16 August, 2013

The Department of Health said it is fully committed to the Responsibility Deal it signed with the drinks industry despite a series of high-profile walkouts by health bodies.

NGOs including the Faculty of Public Health and the UK Health Forum quit the deal – designed to “foster a culture of responsible drinking” – in disgust after the government abandoned plans to introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol.

Nick Sheron, a hepatologist at Southampton University, also quit his role as co-chair of the Responsibility Deal’s alco- hol network, leaving Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the drinks industry-funded Portman Group, as sole chairman.

As signatories including Birmingham City Council and Cancer Research UK continued the exodus, fears arose for the future of a Responsibility Deal made up mainly of members of the drinks trade. But the DoH claims this is not a problem and has no bearing on the future of the deal.

Spokesman Shaun Whelan told OLN: “We are disappointed these health bodies have left, but nobody from the alcohol industry has left and that’s the main thing.

“If the industry was walking away from the pledges we would be concerned, but the industry is still committed.

“The health bodies came on board to provide balance and help with the wording of the pledges – which have already been made.

“They provide some balance at meetings, but some are still on board – we haven’t lost all of them.

“We are disappointed that the Faculty of Public Health and the UK Health Forum are not part of it any more, and we would welcome them back.

“Minimum unit pricing was never part of the Responsibility Deal, but it’s their choice if they want to leave.

“Cancer Research UK never got involved in the alcohol side of the Responsibility Deal, so that has not affected anything. The Responsibility Deal is still strong and healthy.”

Ashworth said: “It is disappointing that the Faculty of Public Health has chosen to walk out of the Responsibility Deal as it is through strong partnerships between government, industry and the public sector that we will improve public health.

“Alcohol producers have made significant voluntary pledges that will help foster a culture of responsible drinking and ensure local alcohol harms are dealt with through a targeted and co-ordinated approach. The drinks industry will continue to be a willing and committed partner with government under the Responsibility Deal framework.”

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