ACSE Invited to Westminster

On Monday 2nd November, Dr Robin Purshouse from the Department of Automatic Control and System Engineering was an invited exhibitor at Westminster – in an event aimed at promoting the use of research in Parliament. 

Dr Robin Purshouse and Colin Angus
Robin Purshouse (left) and Colin Angus (right) at the Research Impact and Parliament exhibition at Portcullis House.

The event was organised by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in collaboration with Parliamentary Outreach and the Scrutiny Unit in the House of Commons. This forms part of Parliament’s Universities programme which was created to help academics access information and get involved with work of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The purpose of the event was to highlight the numerous ways that academics get involved with Parliament, showcasing research and helping to generate an impact. This was therefore the perfect arena in which Dr Purshouse and his colleague, Colin Angus, from the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), could present some of their recent research findings.

Colin Angus said:

“This event provided some fascinating insights into how Parliament uses scientific evidence, not just at the level of individual MPs and Lords but also at a wider level through select committees, the Parliamentary libraries and the valuable work of POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology”.

Their research, entitled ‘The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model’ (SAPM), was selected for the exhibition due to the substantial role that it is has played in the debate around alcohol policy over the last seven years.

Dr Robin Purshouse said:

“This was a fantastic opportunity to explain the findings of the model to Parliamentarians and speak with other academics who are heavily engaged with Parliament about their experiences.”

SAPM, developed by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG), is a mathematical simulation model which can be used to appraise a wide range of alcohol policy interventions. It analyses how consumers respond to price changes in alcohol units, estimating the effects on those in different income brackets and socioeconomic groups.

Since 2008, SAPM estimates have informed debates on alcohol policy in all four nations of the UK and beyond. The model has been used to inform the threshold for minimum unit pricing in Scotland and underpin NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance for primary care Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) programmes in England & Wales.

The model consists of two parts:

  1. A simulation model of the relationship between policy and alcohol consumption, considering age, sex and socioeconomic status. For pricing policies, it accounts for population differences in purchasing preferences (beverage types, prices paid, balance of on-trade and off-trade) and uses estimates of the relationship between price and demand estimated using 9 years of survey data.
  1. A simulation model of the relationship between alcohol consumption and health, crime and workplace outcomes, accounting for different patterns of consumption, socioeconomic gradients, and the time lags between consumption and risk. Key outcomes considered include mortality, hospital admissions and volumes of violent crime. In addition to modelling the harms associated with alcohol, the model also looks at the contended health benefits and estimates impacts on consumer spending and revenues to government.

Every year there are approximately 840,000 hospital admissions and 12,200 premature deaths that are estimated as attributable to alcohol consumption, costing the NHS at least £2.0bn every year. By introducing a minimum pricing for alcohol of 60p per unit (equivalent to about £6 for a bottle of wine) it would reduce premature deaths (approx. 750 per year) and hospital admissions (approx. 28,000 per year) among high risk drinkers and reduce their alcohol consumption by an average of 260 units per year (an amount equivalent to a bottle of wine every other week).

The event gave both Robin and Colin the perfect opportunity to open up new lines of communication with the Parliamentarians who both develop and debate legislation as well as the Parliamentary bodies who support scrutiny of proposed and existing laws in the two Houses of Parliament. This contact should enable a greater understanding of the potential impact of future Government alcohol policies and facilitate more evidence-based policy decisions.

Dr Robin Purshouse concluded:

As an academic it was great to learn more about how to engage effectively with Parliament to support MPs and Peers in their crucial role of scrutinising government legislation.”

If you would like to read more about the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model then please visit the ScHARR website here or follow them on Twitter: @SARG_ScHARR. You can also stay up to date with all of the latest Automatic Control and Systems Engineering news by following us on Twitter: @ShefACSE.

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