Ipswich: Minister backs efforts to tackle health problems

Health Minister Anna Soubry talks with Pc John Alcock and Chief Inspector Steve Denham, Ben Gummer M

Health Minister Anna Soubry talks with Pc John Alcock and Chief Inspector Steve Denham, Ben Gummer MP and Roger Grosvernor about the Reducing the Strengh campaign in Ipswich

Health minister Anna Soubry praised Ipswich’s attempts to tackle two major health issues during a visit to the town yesterday.

She met police and retailers who have joined together to combat the problem of street drinking by promoting the Reducing the Strength campaign.

And she visited Ipswich Hospital’s accident and emergency department to see why it had coped so well during a very busy period over the last few months.

Ms Soubry came to Ipswich after being invited by local MP Ben Gummer who wanted her to see how the Reducing the Strength campaign was working on the ground.

She met police officers who have seen the number of street drinkers in Ipswich fall by about 40% over the last two years – and Roger Grosvenor from the East of England Co-op, which has taken the lead in removing super-strength beers and ciders from the shelves of its shops.

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She said: “Ben has kept me up to date with the success of the campaign and I have been keen to see how this can be extended to towns and cities across the country.

“I had hoped to be here before, but it has had to wait until now. But I am very impressed by what I have seen and heard and it is clearly the kind of initiative the government is keen to get behind.”

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Reducing the Strength has seen cheap, strong drink taken off the shelves of most supermarkets and off licences in the town centre.

Mr Grosvenor said it had not affected trading at the Co-op food stores, but even if it had the group would have persisted with the policy because it was clearly the right thing to do.

After hearing about the campaign, Ms Soubry visited the hospital to hear how the A&E department had been coping over recent busy months.

She said: “It has been a challenging time, and there have been problems in the NHS, but I know that Ipswich Hospital has managed its A&E very well. I wanted to see what we can learn from a centre like Ipswich – and also to thank the staff during what has been a very difficult period.”

The A&E department was especially busy during the months following the closure of the Riverside Clinic Minor Injuries Unit, but has recently earned a growing reputation for its efficient management in challenging situations.

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