‘Drink less’ campaign… by booze PR firm: Dry January company paid millions of taxpayers’ money to drive drinkers to give up next month
NHS pays PR firm Freuds just under £2million a year to run campaign
Experts said it’s nonsense for the campaign to be run by a firm with a ‘vested interest’
16% of Britons drink alcohol at dangerous levels, NHS figures show
Source: Daily Mail
By Sophie Borland
17 December 2015
The NHS’s Dry January campaign is being run by a PR firm receiving millions from the drinks industry.
Officials are paying Freuds thousands of pounds to handle the marketing for the drive which urges Britons to give up alcohol next month.
But the same firm also oversees the advertising for Diageo, the drinks giant behind brands including Guinness, Baileys and Smirnoff vodka.
Experts said it was nonsense for such an important public health campaign to be run by a firm with a clear ‘vested interest’
Controversially, Freuds also runs the PR for the NHS’s anti-obesity drive Change4Life – whilst also doing the advertising for Mars, KFC and Pepsi.
Public Health England, the Government agency responsible, would not disclose how much money it had paid the firm for either campaign.
But financial accounts show it is about £90,000 a month, just under £2million a year.
The campaign, which launches today, encourages adults to abstain from alcohol throughout January to give their livers a rest after Christmas.
Over the next two weeks Freuds will send messages out on Twitter and Facebook websites urging Britons to sign up on a website and raise money for charity.
They will be reminded of the numerous health benefits of giving up alcohol which include losing weight, having clearer skin and being less tired.
And last month a major study by the Royal Free hospital in London showed that stopping drinking for a month was as good as a drug – and reduced liver damage and blood pressure.
But experts questioned why Public Health England were paying Freuds to run the campaign rather than doing it themselves.
There are 5,000 full-time staff members employed by the quango – an arms-length body of the Department of Health – including 50 in press and marketing.
Katherine Brown, Director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said: ‘The public have a right to independent public health information, delivered by experts who have no vested interests.
‘It’s putting public health at risk.
‘Relying on organisations who receive funds from alcohol companies to offer up advice on how to reduce drinking is like putting a fox in charge of a hen house.’
Professor John Ashton, of the Faculty of Public Health said: ‘We need a fundamental shift in our relationship with alcohol.
‘We know what alcohol does in terms of violence, accidents, liver damage and lost productivity due to hangovers, but regularly drinking above recommended levels can also increase the risks of cancer and heart disease.
‘Every penny of publicly funded health campaigns needs to deliver value for money – any perceived conflicts of interest with the alcohol industry could undermine vital work being done to tackle the harms caused by alcohol.’
NHS figures published yesterday showed 80 per cent of Britons drink alcohol, including 16 per cent at levels deemed to be dangerous.
Experts raised particular concerns about well-off women who are three times more likely to drink every day than the lower paid.