MPs have grilled Department of Health officials including permanent secretary Hugh Taylor and senior medical officer Mark Prunty over alcohol dependency figures published by the National Audit Office.

They were questioned at a Commons public accounts committee meeting last Wednesday.

At the meeting, part of an inquiry into alcohol misuse services in England, Austin Mitchell MP (Lab) urged primary care trusts to force people to get help: "We have to hound and discipline them." The DH also needed to put more pressure on PCTs to improve service access, he said.

Mr Taylor said while there were "signs of progress" in PCTs' abilities to assess local needs, they needed "a stronger grip on service planning".

Committee chair Edward Leigh MP (Con) asked why PCTs were spending around£197 for each of the 1.1 million dependent drinkers but£1,744 per head on drug treatment. Mr Taylor replied: "The treatment of people with drug problems is inherently more expensive than people dependent on alcohol."