Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 18:00 UK

Town's underage alcohol problem

Young drinkers
A peer-led pilot is being launched to try to tackle underage drinking

The number of under 18s ending up in hospital due to alcohol abuse in Bournemouth is a third higher than the national average, NHS figures show.

A report by the Primary Care Trust shows 142 under 18s were admitted to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital over the past two years.

Health bosses said the number was 34% higher than the national average.

John Mooney, public health specialist for the PCT, said measures were being taken to tackle the problem.

However he warned there were a number of cautions to take when interpreting the Bournemouth figures, compared with other parts of the country.

I think one of the things we have to consider is that Bournemouth has opted to go for a very high density of 24-hour licences
Alison Rogers
British Liver Trust
"Sometimes people might come in [to a hospital] with injuries and that's the main thing to get treatment.

"The fact that alcohol may or may not be involved may not be reported.

"That's not to say the PCT is not concerned about alcohol-related incidents.

"We have a number of initiatives we are piloting to try to tackle the problem."

He said one specifically for under 18s was based on a partnership called The Safer Communities Forum, involving the PCT, the local authority and police.

It would inform pupils in years seven to nine "of the facts and the risks around alcohol use" and would begin in the new school term, he said.

'Pretty shocking'

He added Bournemouth Borough Council was also introducing a "brief intervention service" for younger adults, which involved short consultations with a health professional about the health risks of alcohol.

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, based in Ringwood, Hampshire, said the figures were "pretty shocking, but not entirely surprising".

"I think one of the things we have to consider is that Bournemouth has opted to go for a very high density of 24-hour licences.

"I think in Bournemouth there are 52 24-hour licences. Now Southampton's taken a completely opposite approach and has only allowed one or two.

"So I don't think we can be surprised that there's a correlation between these figures."

Pc Dave Fish, of Dorset Police's licensing team in Bournemouth, confirmed underage drinking was a real problem for the community.

"It'll be acts of vandalism, graffiti, criminal damage, noise, and these kids will be in groups of 30, up to 50, roaming," he said.




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