The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England has exceeded one million in a year for the first time say reports. The reports reveal that the number of drink-induced hospital visits has more than doubled since 2003, with a 12 per cent year-on-year increase between April 2009 and March 2010 pushing the total to 1,057,000.
The figures come from the NHS Information Centre and showed higher admission rates for older adults than their younger counterparts, while men accounted for 63 per cent of the admissions. The report also disclosed that prescriptions for alcohol dependency cost the NHS £2.41m last year. The cost was highest in the North-west and the North-east, and lowest in London.
According to Chris Sorek, chief executive of the alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, “Alcohol-related hospital admissions exceeding one million represents a worrying landmark in the impact alcohol is having on UK society. Anyone requiring hospital treatment for alcohol- related illness is a cause for concern, and with increasing admissions in all age groups from 16 to 75-plus it's clear we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.”
David Poley, chief executive of the drinks industry body the Portman Group, claimed the figures showed that reducing alcohol consumption was not helping. “It is surprising that hospital admissions have apparently doubled over a period in which alcohol consumption has significantly declined,” he said.
Nicholay Sorensen, policy director of the charity Alcohol Concern, said, “Part of the reason for the increase is a growing cultural acceptance of excessive drinking. Now, as never before, we are really happy to crack open a bottle of wine and drink it in one night.” Various studies indicate that people are drinking more to cope with the stresses of recession, with alcohol so cheap that price is no barrier to getting extremely drunk. Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern's chief executive, added, “The Government's ongoing failure to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse means we will see hospital admissions continue to rise in the future.” Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, said, “These statistics show that the old ways of tackling public health problems have not always yielded the necessary improvements. We are already taking action to tackle problem drinking, including plans to stop supermarkets selling below-cost alcohol and working to introduce a tougher licensing regime. We will also be publishing a new alcohol strategy later this year.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, who chairs the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said, “This confirms doctors' impressions that the health harm from alcohol continues to rise. While total alcohol consumption has fallen in recent years it is likely that the number of abstainers in England is increasing, but those who do drink continue to do so in a harmful and destructive way.”
Tim Straughan, the NHS chief information centre's chief executive, said, “This report provides health professionals and policymakers with a useful picture of the health issues relating to alcohol use and misuse. It also highlights the importance of policy makers and health professionals in recognizing and tackling alcohol misuse which in turn could lead to savings for the NHS.”