Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Hospital drink cases hit new high

man drinking beer
Ministers said radical action was being taken to tackle drink problems

The number of patients treated for drink problems in Scottish hospitals has reached an all-time high, according to official figures.

There were 42,430 alcohol-related discharges from hospitals in 2007-08, a 20% increase over five years.

The Scottish Government said it was planning "radical" measures to tackle drink-related problems.

But opposition parties said ministers had failed to act quickly enough in the face of a growing problem.

The figures, published by health statisticians ISD Scotland, said there were 6,817 cases of alcoholic liver disease at hospitals in 2007-08, and 4,646 cases of alcohol poisoning.

These statistics clearly illustrate why tough action is needed to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland
Peter Terry
BMA Scotland
Public Health Minister Shona Robison linked the rising figures with a fall in the price of alcohol, and said urgent action was needed.

"They show that there were 116 hospital discharges directly due to alcohol-related problems every day in Scotland," she said.

"This is putting a huge strain on the health service, but it also hints at a great deal of misery for individuals, families and communities."

Liberal Democrat public health spokesman Jamie Stone said the response to the problem so far had been "more gimmicks than groundbreaking".

He added: "This comes despite repeated warnings over the danger of excessive alcohol consumption. The message is just not getting through."

Labour's Cathy Jamieson said ministers' plans to tackle the problem were a "dog's dinner".

Plans 'delayed'

"The Scottish Government has been talking up their resolve to deal with alcohol but so far their plans have been both delayed and roundly criticised," she said.

"The SNP needs to ensure that licensing law is fully policed and that children don't get access to alcohol. So far their plans do nothing to tackle this."

Jackson Carlaw, the Tory public health spokesman, said the figures confirmed what most people already knew.

He added: "The Scottish Government needs to get back to the drawing board and come up with a more sophisticated strategy, namely, one that targets the growing minority of problem drinkers rather than certain arbitrarily selected groups or, worse still, everyone on a blanket basis regardless of how responsibly they happen to consume alcohol."

Peter Terry, who chairs doctors' body BMA Scotland, said alcohol misuse was costing the NHS more than 1m every day.

"These alcohol statistics clearly illustrate why tough action is needed to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland," he said.

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