Senior doctors have renewed their efforts to get England to follow Scotland on minimum alcohol pricing.

Experts said a thousand people could die over the next five years because of delays imposing a policy to come in to force north of the border in May.

English medics, police figures and charities have long backed the Scottish position, which was delayed by an ultimately unsuccessful five-year court action by the global alcohol lobby.

Loading article content

The Welsh Government late last year said it would copy Scotland in a bid to cut demand for cut-price supermarket lager, cider and vodka.

The 50p per unit of alcohol minimum price will hugely increase the cost of those products consumed most by the the most vulnerable drinkers.

A three-litre bottle of cider, for example, will go up from just under £3.50 to more than £11.

The latest warning for England comes in a letter to the Sunday Times from medics ahead of new parliamentary evidence scheduled on Monday.

The letter warns that England’s failure to copy Scotland could lead to 182,000 alcohol-related crimes and cost the NHS £326m by 2023.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “These figures make clear the immediate benefits minimum unit pricing would bring if introduced in England.

“In the first year of a 50p minimum price alone, over 160 lives would be saved.” The number of lives saved would rise in following years.

“The longer the government avoids introducing minimum unit pricing, the more unnecessary harm to health will be done, and the more lives will be lost in England.

Canada and Russia have already adopted different systems of minimum alcohol pricing. Russia will extend its regime - which regulates bottle prices, not units - from vodka to wine this spring.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron scrapped a embryonic scheme for minimum unit pricing in 2013, casting doubt on evidence it would cut excessive drinking.

Prof Gilmore, meanwhile, stressed the policy would have little effect on moderate drinkers, such as those who occasionally have wine with a meal. He added: “It is just too easy to buy large quantities of alcohol, and our most vulnerable groups, including children, are able to afford the low prices.”