Booze problems getting worse

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More than 12,700 people have been treated for alcohol-related problems at the county’s two major hospitals in the past five years, new figures show

The Evening Telegraph can reveal that between 2007 and 2011 a total of 7,157 patients were seen at Northampton General Hospital and a further 5,649 treated at Kettering General Hospital.

Across the county’s medical services, alcohol-related admissions rose by 17 per cent in 2008-9 and increased again in 2010-11, although this time only by four per cent compared with a national rate of eight per cent.

To help reduce the numbers, NHS Northamptonshire has introduced community- based alcohol treatment packages, additional resources to provide mental health assessments in A&E departments, is ensuring clinicians have access to appropriate information and is investing in IT infrastructure.

Its director of public health Professor Stephen Horsley said: “Reducing alcohol harm is one of the top priorities for health services in Northamptonshire. In 2010-11 there were 2,027 alcohol-specific hospital admissions, costing the local NHS around £2.9m.

“Based on England average rates, if we don’t do anything and the rate continues to rise, alcohol-specific hospital admissions will cost the NHS in Northamptonshire an additional £1.4m by 2014-15.”

NHS Northamptonshire invested more than £1,1m in 2010 and 2011 after the county was red flagged for alcohol harm in 2009. Nationally, harmful and dependent drinkers are much more likely to frequently attend A&E, on average five times per year.

At Kettering General Hospital there are two dedicated alcohol liaison nurses to help patients with alcohol-related problems.

Its chief executive Lorene Read said: “Alcohol does have a significant impact on hospitals – through patients with conditions related to long- term high consumption levels and accidents related to over indulging.

“We fully support the multi-agency approach to dealing with alcohol and NHS Northamptonshire’s community initiatives.

“Within the hospital itself we do have two dedicated alcohol liaison nurses who work with about 500 patients a year who have been identified as having alcohol use disorders.

“They visit patients in A&E and in our assessment units and wards, who have been identified as having an alcohol issue.

“They help people to understand the problems this causes and assist them in accessing further support and in planning ways to reduce their consumption, or abstain entirely if this is appropriate.”