Big Read: Alcohol-related hospital admissions almost hit 14,000

Drinking to excess can lead to long-term health problems which impact on local health services and law enforcement
Drinking to excess can lead to long-term health problems which impact on local health services and law enforcement

Almost 14,000 people were admitted to hospital in Northamptonshire for alcohol-related illnesses last year.

During a 12-month period between 2011 and 2012, a total of 2,800 people were treated in Kettering and Northampton general hospitals for conditions wholly attributable to alcohol.

A further 10,900 people were admitted for illnesses which were partly attributable to alcohol abuse.

Nationally during the same period, there were 1.2 million admissions related to alcohol consumption across the country, more than twice as many as in 2002-03.

The local figures do not account for those treated for alcohol related issues in A&E who are not admitted to stay overnight in hospital.

Kettering Hospital chief executive Lorene Read said: “Alcohol does have a significant impact on hospitals, mainly through patients with conditions related to long-term high consumption levels and, in a much smaller way, due to accidents related to over-indulging.

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

Northamptonshire County Council plays a large role in providing preventative treatments for people dependent on alcohol.

Fiona Grant, consultant in public health at the county council, said: “We also work with people who are already dependent on alcohol, or who have problems with alcohol, to promote their recovery.

“We work with people who are already dependent to provide treatment, and we do that very much in partnership with other agencies.

“People who require hospital services are then linked with community-based alcohol services to make sure we pick up these people and they don’t slip through the net.

“In this county we have got concerns about the number of people who drink above the safe drinking limits.

“Sometimes that leads to binge drinking, which impacts on crime, anti-social behaviour and minor injuries.

“We have got concerns about middle aged people drinking above safe levels, which is contributing to the hospital admissions. We may have below average levels, but it’s still a problem.

“In Corby we have a particular problem with wholly attributable alcohol related hospital admissions, and alcohol related mortalities are higher in Corby.

“Generally, in terms of hospital admissions, we haven’t got a major issue when compared with the regional and national average, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t got an issue. We have got an issue with binge drinking and people drinking above safe levels.

“We are currently refreshing our county strategy with the key players, and we’re looking at what we can do to address these concerns.”

CAN used to deliver alcohol services for adults in Northamptonshire until a new drug and alcohol service run by CRI took over in February this year, however, CAN still provides alcohol services for people under 18

Linda Juland, chief executive of CAN, said: “We were supplying the service for the time of these figures.

“I think the whole thing around admissions to hospital has been recognised nationwide.

“The rise in liver disease is well documented, and that’s part of what we have been seeing here.

“What was happening during that period was a real initiative – we were looking to identify people who were being admitted to hospital in an emergency, or in a crisis.

“They include people who have been admitted for health related issues but they need to be detoxed because they are physically dependent on alcohol.

“We have got a growing population in terms of age and we have got people drinking for a longer period of time.

“We’ve got people aged in their 40s and 50s who have been drinking for a much longer period, and at a higher level.

“While they are not physically dependent on alcohol, the levels at which they are drinking has caused a number of health related problems.

“The main illness related to alcohol is cancer of the liver, and there has been a massive rise in the number of people with liver disease. Cancer of the throat is another one, but they can’t say it’s the absolute cause. There is a lot of health related damage that can be caused by alcohol.”

Nationally, about 48 per cent of all crime is alcohol related.

Northamptonshire Police say they plan to take a much less tolerant approach to general drunkenness in the street in future.

Chief inspector Dave Spencer explained how the force is taking a lead on tackling the problems.

He said: “There are cells at Wellingborough and Kettering police stations which currently don’t get used on a Saturday night. We are going to open them up so that officers can make arrests for low level drunkenness with the knowledge that they can get back on the streets quickly.

“If there’s a pub that’s not got a very good standard and not willing to improve then we will look to take action through its licensing conditions.

“We also plan to increase the number of test purchasing operation at off-licences.

“We will look to work more closely with pub watches and door staff.”