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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Hospitals see child drinking rise
Teenagers drinking
UK teenagers have one of the highest rates of binge drinking in Europe
The number of UK children admitted to hospital because of drinking alcohol has risen by 11% since the mid-1990s, figures show.

In 2003-2004, 4,647 under-18s were admitted to hospital, the equivalent of 13 a day - up from 4,173 in 1996-1997.

The number of adult admissions also rose by 15% to 41,122.

Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow, a member of the Health Select Committee, said the rise showed teenage binge drinking was "out of control".

Binge drinking has been on the rise for a number of years and last November it was identified as one of the key public health issues in a government white paper.

We are already making strides in reducing the number of young binge drinkers
Department of Health spokeswoman

Britain's teenagers are among the heaviest drinkers in Europe, a pan-Europe survey of 15 and 16-year-olds found in December.

It revealed 15 and 16 year-olds found 26% of boys and 29% of girls in the UK had indulged in binge drinking at least three times in the previous month.

The latest figures came from a Parliamentary answer to Mr Burstow, the Liberal Democrats former health spokesman.

He said: "The number of children being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related disease is shocking and shows that binge drinking among teenagers is completely out of control.

'Delay'

"Dither and delay are the hallmarks of this government's approach to alcohol.

"It has taken eight years for ministers to begin to wake up to the problem and ask the NHS to draw up alcohol harm reduction strategies."

And Shadow Home Secretary David Davis attacked the government's push to relax the licencing laws.

"With illness due to underage drinking on the rise, it beggars belief the government is prepared to to press ahead with even longer drinking hours which will simply lead to more under age drinking."

A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern said since 1990 mean alcohol consumption among those adolescents who drink had risen from five to 10 units a week.

"So it's not surprising that some of these will end up being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related problems or that we are seeing an 11% rise in teenage admissions since 1996/1997.

"There is no safe guide for what young people can drink but it's clear that they are very vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and they need advice and education on the risks of excess drinking."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are already making strides in reducing the number of young binge drinkers.

"Figures out earlier this year show that between 2003 and 2004 there was a drop of 2% in the number of 11-15-year-olds in England who had drunk alcohol in the past week.

"We know that more needs to be done and we have the measures in place to improve education on alcohol as well as clamping down on the selling of alcohol to those under-18."


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