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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 16:12 GMT
Alcohol takes toll on Scots NHS
Alcohol
Heavy drinking is on the increase, according to the report
Scotland's drink problem is worsening with a significant rise in emergency admissions to hospitals over the past eight years, a report shows.

In some cases the figures have more than doubled, according to NHS Quality Improvement Scotland.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said Scotland's culture of heavy drinking was placing an increasing burden on the NHS.

The government will publish an updated plan for action on alcohol next year.

The figures have come from NHS Quality Improvement Scotland. Chief executive Dr David Steel said they painted a "stark picture of the damage alcohol is doing to the nation's health".

"Quite simply, Scotland's drink problem is getting worse," he stated. "As a nation, we need to take a good look at our behaviour.

"If we continue to misuse alcohol, it will continue to extract a toll on our health that our bodies simply cannot afford."

If anyone visits an A&E department on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night they will see what carnage alcohol brings to our service
Bill Morrison
Consultant

The report shows that between 1996 and 2004, the rate of emergency admission rose by 40% for men and 30% for women with acute intoxication and harmful use.

For people with alcoholic liver disease, it went up by 73% (men) and 81% (women). Chronic liver disease cases went up by 92% and 100%.

Mr Macdonald said: "Scotland has a long established culture of heavy drinking which carries a significant financial and human cost to society.

"We're taking extensive measures to tackle alcohol misuse and binge drinking.

'Respect' drink

"Government has a role to play in tackling alcohol related problems, but each and every one of us has a responsibility to respect alcohol and drink sensibly."

Dr Bill Morrison, an accident and emergency consultant at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, said the time taken to deal with the large number of drink-related casualties meant patients with other problems faced a longer wait.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, he said: "We have the acute episodes of people coming in severely intoxicated, in a lot of occasions it would be more appropriate to describe them as being poisoned with alcohol.

A&E
Casualty staff are on the receiving end of alcohol-related abuse

"There are secondary effects as well, people coming in who have been innocent bystanders out for a social evening and are coming in as victims of an alcohol fuelled attack."

Dr Morrison added: "The aggression that may have manifested itself in a nightclub can often carry on into the A&E department. Medical staff can often find themselves at the bottom end of fairly unpleasant verbal or physical abuse.

"If anyone visits an A&E department on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night they will see what carnage alcohol brings to our service - it goes without saying that the more patients attending, the longer each patient will take to be seen."

The government's plan for action on alcohol has led to the launch of a national campaign to target binge drinking among young people.

Binge concern

Alcohol action teams will receive 10m in 2006/07 to tackle alcohol problems.

Last week, Audit Scotland expressed concern last week about binge drinking.

It told ministers that pledges to curb the drinking culture were unlikely to be met.

The situation was said to have worsened since alcohol became more available and affordable.

Half of Scottish men and a quarter of Scottish women exceeded recommended limits, more than their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Opposition reaction

The SNP health spokesman Stewart Maxwell MSP called for a national debate on how to tackle Scotland's "bevy culture".

He said: "This report should be a wake-up call for the executive.

"These shocking figures clearly underline the urgent need for a national debate on how to tackle this vital issue."

Dr Nanette Milne MSP, Conservative health spokeswoman, said: "Education is clearly required and an ongoing programme of hard-hitting public information campaigns should be carried out."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scotland has long had a heavy drinking culture



SEE ALSO:
Surgeon calls for pub drink limit
11 Dec 05 |  Scotland
New bill reforms laws on alcohol
01 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Scots' excess drink cost 1.1bn
28 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Binge drinking link to rapes rise
17 Sep 04 |  Scotland


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