A newly published report from the NHS shows that prescriptions for alcohol dependency drugs have risen from 102,700 in 2003 to 167,800 in 2011. This reflects an increase of 63% in an 8 year period. The new statistics relate to both primary and secondary care.
The report shows that there were 198,900 hospital admissions related to alcohol compared to 142,000 in 2002/03. In 2011 statistics show that 167,764 prescription items were dispensed relating to treatment for alcohol, a 4.7% increase from the previous year. The net cost of these prescriptions to the NHS was 2.49 million in 2011 compared to 2.41 million in 2010.
Research published in the Lancet Medical Journal has reported that there could be 210,000 preventable deaths in England and Wales in the next 20 years if alcohol laws are not reformed.
The figures for England and Wales suggest a third of the deaths could be from liver disease with the rest from accidents, violence and chronic illnesses including high blood pressure, strokes and some forms of cancer.
The warning comes ahead of the new alcohol strategy for England and Wales which will be published later this year. Speaking on behalf of the government, Anne Milton, Public Health Minister said “We are determined to tackle the scandal of alcohol abuse. People that misuse alcohol endanger their own lives and those of others.” Ms Milton further added ”It costs the NHS £2.7bn per year and in our forthcoming alcohol strategy we will set out our plans on how to deal with the wide range of problems and harms it causes.”
A&E staff face their busiest time of the year over the festive period. The Friday before Christmas is historically one of the biggest party nights of the year. During the course of the year alcohol-related hospital admissions account for 40% of A&E patients however over the festive period this figure increases significantly. In some parts of the UK ambulance services will receive calls relating to alcohol injuries every 30 seconds.
In the opinion of the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, the solution to the UK’s alcohol crisis is not minimum pricing. The Home Office has confirmed that a new government strategy designed to tackle the UK’s attitude to alcohol will be launched early 2012. It is thought that the new policy will focus on community based alcohol partnerships. This would allow police, trading standards and retailers to work together to target problems such as underage drinking and antisocial behaviour.
NHS figures released this week show an 11% increase in the number of alcohol related hospital admissions in the last decade. The data relates to England and confirms that in 2010/11 there were 1,173,386 admissions compared to 2009/2010 figure of 1,056,962. The figure in 2002/03 was 510,780.
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley commented on the figures being ”disturbing evidence that, despite total consumption of alcohol not increasing recently we have serious problems with both binge drinking and long-term excessive alcohol abuse in a minority of people”. He confirmed that a new government strategy to deal with the issue would be outlined in the new year.
A report published by NHS Scotland estimates that the number of drug users in Scotland has risen by 4000 since 2006. The main increase in drug use is amongst people over 35 where the number has gone up by a third. The rise in the older generation is being cited as due to poverty and welfare cuts. The overall number of drug users is now estimated at 61,000.
In the age group 35-64 the report estimates 1 in every 100 people is now a drug user in comparison to 1 in 95 in 2006. Drug usage in those between 15-24 years and 25-34 years have both dropped during this period.
Glasgow City Council reported the highest number of individuals with problem drug use with the figure estimated at 13,900.
When asked about the rise Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham conceded that these statistics were “unacceptably high.” However she was encouraged that less young people in Scotland were abusing drugs although this does suggest that Scotland is faced with “a long legacy of drug use.”