NHS reveals double-whammy alcohol crisis

Tuesday 05th February 2019 14:36 EST

Alcohol addiction treatment experts are urging Government to “listen to the numbers” and to admit that today’s double-whammy NHS crisis due to alcohol cannot go ignored for yet another year.

The call comes as NHS on Tuesday revealed that alcohol related hospital admissions rose by 100,000 people in 2017/18 to a crippling 1.2million people, representing 7.2% of all hospital admissions for that year.

At the same time, the report also shows a 6% year on year rise in the number of alcohol-specific deaths; from 5,507 in 2016 to 5,843 in 2017. This is also a staggering 16% over the last 10 years.

A survey, commissioned by the BBC to investigate attitudes to alcohol among British Sikhs recently found that - although drinking alcohol is forbidden in Sikhism but 27% of British Sikhs report having someone in their family with an alcohol problem. It's a problem which is rarely talked about openly in the community.

Eytan Alexander, CEO of addiction treatment specialists UKAT said,“Alcohol in England is without a doubt at crisis point and worse still, we start another year with no dedicated strategy from Government for tackling alcoholism in this country. Why is it that alcohol misuse is always shoehorned into the overall drugs policy? It needs to be recognised as a standalone problem, because that’s exactly what it is- a problem.

“The numbers speak for themselves, and it’s time to admit that change is needed in order to help the NHS and to help those most vulnerable in society.”

The report comes as UKAT reveals that throughout 2018, over half (55%) of all patients treated were for alcohol addiction, the highest amount they’ve ever treated. UKAT treated 1,025 patients for alcohol addiction in 2018, compared to just 579 in 2015; a 77% rise in just 3 years.

The NHS details how 83% of hospital admissions were aged over 45 and that just under two thirds were male. Regionally, Salford once again had the highest rate at 3,430 per 100,000 population, and Wokingham had the lowest rate at just 1,410.

Worryingly, the vast majority (78%) of alcohol related deaths occur between the ages of 40-69 and once again, death rates were highest in the most deprived areas and lowest in the least deprived areas.

Responding to the statistcs from NHS Digital on alcohol in England which shows an increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions and alcohol-specific deaths, a BMA spokesperson, said, “While the Government has announced the expansion of alcohol care teams as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan, these figures highlight the enormous scale of the problem and prompt concerns that what the Government has proposed is not anywhere near what is actually required.  

“We need to see a strong and comprehensive new alcohol strategy that prioritises prevention and factors in the wider societal influences that may impact a person’s alcohol consumption. The BMA will continue to push for the Government to commit to a comprehensive and effective range of population-wide measures such as a minimum unit pricing for alcohol, mandatory labeling and limits on alcohol advertising, as the current approach is failing to protect the health of the public.”

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