Alcohol-related hospital admissions rise a fifth in decade

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Hospital admissions due to alcohol have risen almost a fifth in the last decade to reach almost 358,000 last year, new figures show.

A report from NHS Digital shows a 6% rise between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in cases where alcohol was the main reason for admission.

In 2018/19, there were 357,660 admissions, up from 337,870 in 2017/18 and 300,930 in 2008/09.

Mental and behavioural disorders due to drink led to admissions, while some people were taken to hospital suffering alcoholic liver disease.

Alcohol also influenced admissions for cancer, unintentional injuries and heart disease.

Stoke-on-Trent had the highest rate of alcohol admissions in England, at 1,130 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, East Sussex had the lowest, at 320 per 100,000 people.

When it came to deaths in 2018, some 5,698 people died due to drink – 2% lower than in 2017 but a 7% rise on 2008.

The report also found that men and women aged 55 to 64 are the most likely to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week – the maximum amount recommended by the NHS.

Some 38% of men and 19% of women in this age group usually drink more than 14 units in a week, the data showed, while 76,000 people in 2018/19 were treated for problematic drinking alone.

And 9% of pupils thought it was OK to get drunk once a week, up from 7% in 2014, though down from 20% in 2003.

Of 15-year-olds, 47% thought it was OK to drink alcohol once a week, and 19% thought it was OK to get drunk once a week.

Laura Bunt, acting chief executive of the charity Addaction, said: “In 2018 the UK government announced it would be creating a new, stand-alone alcohol strategy.

“But this January, the promise was quietly rolled back. These statistics show that a new approach is needed.

“We know that minimum unit pricing, which sets a price below which a unit of alcohol can’t be legally sold, has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption. In Scotland, alcohol sales have hit a 25-year low since it was introduced in 2018.

“While there needs to be a national strategy, we can see from these statistics that the group most at risk are older adults.

“We’ve learnt from our services that as people age, big life events such as divorce, bereavement, financial issues or even retirement can leave people feeling isolated and unable to cope.

“What’s more, harmful alcohol use among older adults is often a hidden problem, with many drinking at home alone instead of out and socialising.”

The report also found the average spend on all food and drink in 2018/19 was £45.31 per person per week, including alcoholic drinks and food eaten out.

Since 2014, there has been a 16% rise in alcohol purchased to drink at home, while the purchase of alcohol for consumption outside the home increased by 6%.

Consumption of alcohol while eating out accounted for 26% of total alcohol intake in 2017/18 – 37% higher than in 2014.

Overall alcohol intake was 10.5g of alcohol per person per day in 2017/18 – which is an increase of 17.7% since 2014.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “The Government needs to wake up to the fact that the harmful use of alcohol is killing people across the country right now.

“Far too many people are dying much too young as a direct result of unhealthy levels of alcohol consumption in England.

“The Chancellor needs to increase alcohol duty by 2% above inflation in the next Budget.

“In addition, England needs minimum unit pricing, following the lead of Scotland and Wales, and cuts in support for harmful drinkers need to be reversed.”

A spokeswoman for the Alcohol Information Partnership, which is funded by the alcohol industry, said the proportion of men drinking more than eight units a day, and the proportion of women drinking six units a day was falling.

An NHS spokesman said: “Tackling preventable illness is a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which is why alcohol care teams will be rolled out in hospitals with the highest number of alcohol-related admissions and will support patients and their families who have issues with alcohol misuse.”

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