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Dean Royles: Why I’m doing dry January

I really hope I don’t sound like a killjoy. I know many people like a drink now and again, but it’s good to start the New Year in a reflective mode, and with a challenge!

It’s estimated that alcohol consumption costs the NHS £3.5 billion each year. That’s more than double the cost in 2001 (£1.47 billion). It's not just about those drunk on Saturday night turning up in A&E. It is also the impact on livers and hearts that regularly drinking above the recommended amount causes. 

There are some other startling statistics too. Estimates suggest:

  • 50% of violent assaults are related to alcohol
  • 22% of accidental deaths are alcohol-related
  • 30% of suicides have alcohol involved
  • 58% of sexual abuse and rape includes alcohol
  • Alcohol is the key factor in child or elderly abuse

Makes you think, doesn’t it? If we are serious about the health and wellbeing of our staff, we have to engage in difficult conversations about alcohol – without sounding pious.

As someone who has worked almost all my life in the NHS, I know the weekly alcohol units, I understand the impact, and I've seen the cost on the NHS and on individuals. I feel a responsibility to help shape the debate.

Dry January isn’t a detox but an opportunity to engage in a conversation about the impact of alcohol on our society. It’s a great vehicle to support our public health colleagues as they build the debate about the impact of advertising and normalisation of alcohol, and the positive effect minimum pricing of alcohol would have on consumption. 

Alongside smoking, this is a huge public health issue. Public Health England has researched whether Dry January has an effect on drinking habits. It reports, of those that have signed up:

  • 71% completed Dry January
  • 58% reported a decrease in drinking days per week
  • 82% reported feeling a sense of accomplishment
  • 49% lost weight
  • 62% slept better
  • 79% saved money
  • 62% had more energy.

What’s not to like? If you choose to take part you can help shape the debate and feel the personal impact too. I’m in. Are you?

Dean Royles is director of HR and organisational development at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust