Alcohol and the NHS is a “ticking time bomb about to explode”

men drinking pints of beer outside
© iStock/william87

Alcohol related hospital admissions are at a record number and according to experts, is crippling the NHS

According to an NHS report, in 2018 a staggering 1.3 million people were admitted to hospital because of alcohol, a figure that represents 7.4% of all hospital admissions across the country.

Detailed analysis of the statistics by UKAT, alcohol addiction treatment experts, shows that the biggest reason for admission into hospital was for Cardiovascular disease, accounting for 645,070 (51%) of all admissions.

17% (220,730) of all admissions were for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol, conditions which include acute intoxication, harmful use of alcohol, dependence to alcohol and withdrawal from alcohol. Other conditions for hospital admission due to alcohol include breast cancer, alcohol poisoning, and alcoholic liver disease.

In the last decade, people admitted to hospital because of alcohol has risen by 60% – a figure that has increased year on year for the last ten years. In 2018/19, over 1.2 million people were admitted to hospital where the primary reason or secondary diagnosis was linked to alcohol consumption, 8% more than the previous year (1.1 million) and 60% more than in 2008/09 (784,650).

Almost half of people admitted (47%) were aged between 55 and 74 and just under two-thirds of all admissions were male.

In terms of geographical location, Southampton had the highest rate of hospital admissions due to alcohol, at 4,020 per 100,000 population. However, East Sussex had the lowest rate at 1,080 per 100,000.

Nuno Albuquerque, Group Treatment Lead at addiction firm UKAT comments: “This country’s problem with alcohol is a ticking time bomb about to explode. The NHS is crippling under pressures directly attributable to the misuse of alcohol; what will it take to make the Government sit up, listen and take effective action? Why do we still not have an Alcohol-specific Strategy, as promised back in 2018? It is a huge problem and one that needs immediately addressed as a matter of urgency.”

In 2018, 5,698 people died due to alcohol consumption. This was 2% lower than in 2017 but a 7% rise in ten years. The NHS report also shows that there were over 170,000 prescribed drugs issued in 2018, 27% more than in 2008 to combat alcohol-related conditions and diseases.

The North of England dispensed 68,000 prescription items to combat alcohol misuse which accounted for 46% of all items. London dispensed the lowest number, just 12,000.

Nuno continues: “The NHS is being forced into a corner when it comes to tackling alcohol misuse. GP’s prescribing drugs like Acamprosate Calcium, Disulfiram and Nalmefene will only pause the problem, not solve it.

“Taking this sticky-plaster approach is also a false economy, costing the NHS an eye-watering £4.32million last year alone.”

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