View Full Version : Two admitted to hospital for alcohol a minute

02-09-2010, 12:25

The number of hospital admissions caused by alcohol has risen by two-thirds in the last five years because society is "turning a blind eye" to Britain's drinking culture, public health experts have warned.

At least a quarter of drinkers in England are exceeding healthy weekly limits for alcohol consumption said Prof Mark Bellis, director of the North West Public Health Observatory.

But despite growing evidence, the country still thinks it is "population of responsible drinkers", he said.

The Observatory has compiled latest NHS and Home Office statistics into Local Alcohol Profiles for England, which document people admitted to hospital due to alcohol harm for every local authority area.

They show that there were 954,469 alcohol-related admissions in the year ending March 2009, a rise of 9.5 per cent on 2007/08.

That means almost two people were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related harm every minute.

Over five years the number of admissions has grown by 65 per cent.

Given the rate of growth it is likely that the annual number topped the one million mark for the first time in 2009/10, although those figures will not be released until later this year.

The NHS statistics include those admitted both as a direct consequence of drinking - for example cirrhosis of the liver - and an indirect consequences, such as being injured while drunk. However, they exclude those treated solely in A&E.

The statistics illuminate a stark north-south divide, with people in northern cities like Liverpool and Newcastle-upon-Tyne more than three times more likely to be admitted than those in southern areas like the Isle of Wight and Chiltern district in Buckinghamshire.

But Prof Bellis said they showed a national problem.

He said: "The price we pay for turning a blind eye to the real extent of alcohol abuse across England is reflected in the new Local Alcohol Profiles for England and it is a price that is paid especially by the poorest communities."

He went on: "The English death toll from alcohol now exceeds 15,500 people every year. It is time to recognise that we are not a population of responsible drinkers with just a hand full of irresponsible individuals ruining it for others.

"Over one in four drinkers exceed weekly limits according to national surveys and alcohol sales figures suggest the number is much higher.

"At weekends, by the early morning hours our city centres do not have just a few drunk individuals in – actually most people are drunk yet continue to be able to buy alcohol despite such sales being illegal."

Prof Bellis said the "real cost of alcohol" needed to be reflected in its price, with warning on adverts "written large enough for people to recognise the seriousness of the risks".

The Treasury is currently consulting on changing alcohol taxation to reduce the harm drinking causes, following public consultation.

Alcohol Concern, the charity, has proposed that taxes on alcohol should be increased by 10 per cent, saying the Treasury's own figures suggested this would reduce alcohol-related deaths by a third.

The Home Office is also consulting on overhauling licensing laws.