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News / Addressing problem drinking

The health improvement team can be contacted via the website

NHS SHETLAND is inviting the public to take part in focus groups about alcohol as the health board further explores the isles’ relationship with drink.

The issue of alcohol consumption in Shetland hit national headlines recently after the local NHS said in a report that it felt there was an overprovision of off-sale premises in the isles.

Much was made of a suggestion – which was sourced from research conducted with those in recovery from alcohol dependence in Aberdeen – to ban the sale of drink in the mornings.

NHS Shetland said alcohol provision is just “one small part” of their wider remit of helping people improve their health and wellbeing.

They will now hold focus groups across the isles with five to ten people each to discuss with the public Shetland’s alcohol culture and how problem drinking can be addressed.

Surveys will also be available in paper and online, while staff will be on hand to speak to people on a one-to-one basis.

NHS Shetland health improvement practitioner Lucy Flaws said while the suggestion to limit off-sales during the day came from people in recovery from alcohol misuse, the issue is far wider.

“The ‘alcohol problem’ is not restricted to those few who are in recovery, or struggling with serious alcohol addiction,” she said.

“Most recent stats show that 40 per cent of us exceed the lower-risk drinking guidelines, and 12 per cent are ‘problem drinkers’.”

Flaws added that while “changing pricing and restricting availability” has the biggest impact on reducing alcohol consumption and harm, other factors such as attitudes and behaviour also needed to be understood.

“The costs of alcohol harm – in terms of mental and physical health, social costs of family and relationship breakdown, and economic costs of lost working years – mean we need to do things that will have a big impact, like looking at overprovision, but in the long run, and looking at the bigger picture, we want people to be well informed, able and confident to make healthier decisions to live healthier, happier lives,” she said.

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“This means looking at knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of individuals, groups, communities and decision makers and understanding how these influence our day to day actions.

“Often people know what the better option is, and want to take it, but there are things that make that choice a difficult choice for them – whether in relation to alcohol, smoking, exercise, food, work or family – so it is about more than just increasing knowledge, it is about looking at how Shetland can be a place where the healthier option is the easier option.”

To register your interest in taking part, contact Lucy Flaws on 01595 807497 or email

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