Hospital admissions due to alcohol could rise more than a third by 2015, a report says.

Admissions for alcohol misuse are likely to hit 1.5 million a year unless the Government steps in to tackle the problem, according to research from Alcohol Concern.



The number of admissions in England due to alcohol misuse was 1.1 million in 2009/10, a 100% rise since 2002/03, today's report says.



"If the rise continues unchecked, by the end of the current Parliament a staggering 1.5 million people will be admitted to hospital every year as a result of drinking."



In the past 60 years, the average alcohol intake per person per year has risen across the UK, from five litres in the 1950s to more than 11 litres in 2007.



More than 10 million adults in England now drink more than the recommended daily limit, with 2.6 million drinking more than twice that, according to researchers.



The report adds: "There has also been a dramatic rise in drinking among women, with heavy drinking increasing by almost a third in the decade prior to 2008."



As well as health problems linked with alcohol, the report points to "damage" echoing throughout society, contributing to 1.2 million incidents of violent crime a year, 40% of domestic violence cases and 6% of all road casualties.



The report says the cost to the NHS in England will rise from £2.7 billion a year to £3.7 billion unless steps are taken to deal with alcohol abuse.



The £2.7 billion is already roughly twice the equivalent figure for 2001.



The cost of alcohol to society as a whole is even greater, the report goes on, estimated to stand at £17 billion to £22 billion, with some reports high as £55 billion.



Alcohol Concern is calling on the Government to invest in alcohol health workers in hospitals, A&E units and GP practices.



This will save the NHS in the UK £3 for every £1 spent as well as cutting violent crime and alcohol-related deaths, it said.



Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: "Whereas successful action has been taken to reduce rates of smoking and illegal drugs, successive Governments have failed to act decisively in treating the country's drink problem.



"With the Prime Minister saying that the NHS is becoming 'increasingly unaffordable', we can show how billions can be saved simply by introducing alcohol health workers in hospitals to help patients reduce their drinking.



"Government must make tackling alcohol misuse a priority for public health, leading to huge savings for the whole country.



"We need to encourage those who drink too much to realise it and get the help they need.



"As problem drinking costs the country so dear, a modest investment in supporting problem drinkers will lead to a three-fold saving, surely a necessity in an economic downturn."



A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Misuse of alcohol can cause significant harm and the Government has wasted no time in taking tough action to tackle problem drinking, including plans to stop supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost and working to introduce a tougher licensing regime.



"It is clear we need a bold new approach to tackling this and other public health issues because so many of the lifestyle-driven health problems are already at alarming levels.



"That is why the newly published strategy for public health sets out plans to ring-fence public health spending, devolve power and budgets to local communities, and work across areas from behavioural science to education to improve public health.



"We will also be publishing a new alcohol strategy to follow on from the Public Health White Paper in the summer."



Professor Jon Rhodes, President of the British Society of Gastroenterology, said: "The rising rates of alcohol related hospital admissions highlighted in this report are extremely worrying and add to a growing bank of evidence that starkly highlights the problem facing our hospitals.



"The British Society of Gastroenterology fully supports Alcohol Concern's findings and, as doctors who see the impact of alcohol abuse on our wards on a daily basis, we know that if workable solutions aren't implemented now, the situation will only get worse.



"This involves an integrated approach to health services across primary, secondary and community care. There also needs to be a joined up approach to alcohol-related ill health which comprises a minimum unit price, targeted fiscal measures and independent regulation of alcohol advertising and promotion. These measures have proved successful in addressing harmful drinking in other countries and we urge the Government to take serious steps to tackle this growing problem."

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