The number of people dying from alcohol-related illness, such as liver disease, is rising. But new figures show that the rate varies significantly between regions, with the North of England topping the list.

The Office for National Statistics revealed yesterday that in 2003 there were 6,580 alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales - up from 5,970 in 2001.

Almost two thirds of them were men, with a rate of 15.8 deaths per 100,000 people compared to 7.6 for women.

The death rate in the North- west was almost double that in the East: 15.1 deaths per 100,000, compared to 7.7 in the East. High rates were also seen in the North-east (13.1), the West Midlands (12.5) and London (12.3).

Of the 10 local authorities with the highest rates for men, five were in the North-west, with the worst being Blackpool, at 43.9. Of the 10 local authorities with the highest female rates, six were in the North-west. The worst was Corby in the East Midlands, at 20.3 per 100,000.