Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 10:31 UK

Hospital alcohol admissions soar

Teens drinking
There has been a rise in GP prescriptions for alcohol dependency

Hospital admissions linked to alcohol use have more than doubled in England since 1995, an NHS report shows.

Alcohol was the main or secondary cause of 207,800 NHS admissions in 2006/7, compared to 93,500 in 1995/96.

There has also been a 20% rise in the number of GP prescriptions for treating alcohol dependency in the past four years, the NHS Information Centre said.

The British Liver Trust warned that the health impact of alcohol would only get worse in years to come.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, agreed that alcohol was placing an ever-increasing burden on the NHS.

We are talking about a younger age group, drinking sometimes huge quantities, which can be damaging
Dr Varuna Aluvihare, liver specialist at Kings College Hospital

"These rises paint a worrying picture about the relationship between the population and the bottle," he added.

The figures include hospital admissions for a specific alcohol-related condition - such as liver disease, but also admissions where alcohol is a contributory factor but not the main cause - such as falls due to drunkenness.

Of hospital admissions in 2006/7 specifically due to an alcohol-related diagnosis, almost one in 10 were in under 18 year olds.

In 2006 there were 6,500 deaths related to alcohol, of which two thirds were men - a 19% rise from 2001 figures.

The north west had the highest rate of alcohol-related admissions at 170 per 100,000, while the lowest was the east of England which had 72 per 100,000.

Teenage drinking

Survey results also contained in the report showed more pupils aged 11 to 15 years who say they have never had an alcoholic drink increased from 39% in 2001 to 45% in 2006.

Dr Chris Record, a liver specialist, says alcohol prices should go up

But those who admit to drinking are drinking more - consuming 11.4 units per week on average, the highest figure ever recorded by the survey.

And 30% of 15 year olds said it was fine to get drunk at least once a week, the poll of over 8,000 teens found.

Among adults in 2006, 72% of men and 57% of women reported drinking an alcoholic drink on at least one day in the previous week.

And 12% of men and 7% of women reported drinking on every day in the previous week.

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According to the NHS Information Centre alcohol was 69% more affordable in 2007 than in 1980.

Dr Varuna Aluvihare, a liver specialist at Kings College Hospital said: "We are talking about a younger age group, drinking sometimes huge quantities, which can be damaging.

"We are seeing people in their 20s and 30s. When I started practising, we saw people in their 50s."

'Know your limits'

Frank Soodeen, spokesperson for Alcohol Concern said the figures confirmed what they had heard from frontline NHS staff.

"The government needs to shape a response that meets the challenges thrown up by this bulletin.

"Information campaigns are a great first step, but we also need urgent investment in treatment systems that help steer problem drinkers away from harmful behaviour before they develop chronic conditions."

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was working harder than ever to reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions.

"The NHS spends 217m a year on specialist alcohol treatment and I have just launched a 6m campaign to make sure people know their units and know how much they're drinking."

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trusts said: "This is set to hit England hard over the following years because liver disease can take up to 10 years to develop.

"We need action now to protect people's health to stop health harm from alcohol spiralling out of control."


SEE ALSO
Alcohol-related deaths 'rising'
25 Jan 08 |  Health

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