’10 million’ NHS drink admissions

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Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Almost 10 million NHS admissions in England over a year were related to alcohol, new figures have revealed.

Alcohol Concern said the health service was facing an “intolerable strain” from people drinking too much as it published a new online map to measure alcohol harm across the country.

Figures released by the charity showed the number of booze-related NHS admissions, including hospital patients and clinic and A&E visits, reached 9.9 million in England in 2012-13.

This compared to 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions in England in 2011-12, when the figures did not include outpatient admissions and A&E trips, Alcohol Concern said.

Some 9.6 million people are now drinking in excess of Government guidelines – including 2.4 million who are classed as “high risk”, according to the charity.

High risk drinking is defined as people who drink more than six to eight units of alcohol a day, with one unit equating to less than a small glass of wine or a half pint of beer.

According to the charity’s Alcohol Harm Map, men aged 55-75 were the most likely to be admitted to hospital due to alcohol misuse.

It revealed almost half of all head and neck cancer patient admissions were alcohol-related (47.4%), costing the NHS £65.3 million.

Just over 13% of all malignant tumours of breast cancer patients were also attributed to alcohol, at a cost of £27.1 million to the NHS, Alcohol Concern said.

While A&E admissions accounted for six in 10 alcohol-related hospital visits, inpatient admissions were responsible for almost two thirds of the total cost burden of £2.8 billion, according to the charity.

Alcohol Concern said the new map intends to show the harm and cost of problem drinkers so local authorities and health providers can ensure they have access to treatment services.

The map, which has been produced with pharmaceutical company Lundbeck Ltd and is available on the charity’s website, includes data for each local authority area and all 211 clinical commissioning groups in England in 2012-13.

It features figures on alcohol-related healthcare costs, hospital admissions, deaths and the number of people drinking too much.

The South East of England was revealed as the region with the most “high risk” drinkers, with more than 1.6 million people, while the North West had the most alcohol-related deaths with 3,501 in 2012.

Alcohol Concern has now called on the Government to put greater emphasis on alcohol education or risk a “public health crisis” which will cost the nation billions in health spending.

The charity’s chief executive, Jackie Ballard, said: “The NHS is now facing an intolerable strain from alcohol-related illnesses. This is not just from readily-identifiable causes such as A&E visits and admissions for liver disease, but from a significant number of other conditions in which alcohol plays a major, but often under appreciated part.

“We urgently need action to prevent alcohol misuse. The first and most effective of which is for the Government to implement a minimum unit price, which has the potential to save the economy millions, and most importantly save lives.”

Dr Carsten Grimm, clinical lead for the alcohol service in Kirklees, Yorkshire, said: “It is vital that people understand the full consequences of drinking at unsafe levels can have on their health. With almost 10 million alcohol-related hospital admissions, we can see just how serious an impact unsafe levels of alcohol consumption is having on our health system.

“Drinking alcohol above recommended levels can have a damaging impact upon almost every part of our body, and it is crucial that national and local organisations work together to address this harm.”

Public Health England (PHE) said alcohol harm was “going in the wrong direction” as it repeated calls for minimum pricing to be introduced.

Rosanna O’Connor, director of the alcohol, drugs and tobacco division at PHE, said: “Alcohol harms are unacceptably high and much of this harm is preventable. Over 60 diseases or health conditions can be caused by drinking alcohol, and the cost of alcohol to society is around £21 billion.

“Nationally, alcohol harm is going in the wrong direction especially in deprived communities, and we all must put maximum effort, resources and ambition into reversing this.

“PHE will continue to promote the evidence for a minimum unit price on alcohol and other measure to reduce harm, raise awareness of the harms to those drinking at risk, as well as promoting good effective local treatment and specialist hospital services for all who need them.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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