Ten million hospital visits due to heavy drinking

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Figures have shown that ten million visits to English hospitals during last year were due to heavy drinking, resulting in a total treatment cost of £2.8bn to the health service.

This booze culture within England is placing a huge strain on the NHS, according to charities.

Previous attempts made at quantifying the impact of alcohol consumption on hospital have only taken into account inpatient visits which required an overnight stay, resulting in estimates of one million admissions annually. However, the new research, which includes A&E visits and outpatient admissions, places the figure ten times higher.

The analysis of this problem also calculated the long-term effect of heavy drinking, such as cancer, stroke and heart disease.

According to the charity Alcohol Concern that assessed the official figures offered by the NHS, it was found that alcohol resulted in 9.96m visits to England’s hospital during 2013/13. This figure included 6.3m A&E visits, 2.67m outpatient ward day visits and 992000 overnight inpatient ward admissions.

Hospital staff have confirmed that A&E units become war zones, especially at the weekend. Norman Lamb, the health minister, has called for a fine of £50 to be imposed to those who consume too much alcohol and then proceed to abuse health staff when they need to be taken to hospital.

However, the report from Alcohol Concern indicates that while A&E admissions are a huge problem, long-term alcohol consumption places a massive burden on the healthcare service because it causes expensive to treat diseases. The research revealed that 47% of the admissions for neck and head cancer, including tumours of the throat and mouth, can be linked to drinking. Slightly over 13% of breast cancer cases are also linked to alcohol. Around 13.5% of hypertensive disease, such as stroke and heart disease, 15% of gastrointestinal cancers, and 23.4% of epilepsy cases are as a result of heavy drinking.

The charity’s Alcohol Harm Map, indicates that males aged between 55 and 75 were at high risk of being admitted to hospital because of alcohol misuse.

Approximately 9.6m people are drinking more than the Government guidelines, including 2.4m who fall into the high risk category. Those categorised as high-risk consume in excess of eight alcohol units daily, which converts to around four large glasses of wine or three pints of beer.

The majority of hospital visits were A&E admissions, but inpatient admissions make up the bulk of the cost burden of £2.8bn to the NHS.

The chief executive at Alcohol Concern, Jackie Ballard, said urgent action is needed to prevent the misuse of alcohol. She said the most effective way to do this is for the Government to implement a minimum unit price, which could save millions and, above all, save lives.

Image Credit: Stop Alcohol Deaths, Inc.

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