Alcohol related hospital admissions soar

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The Independent Online

Hospital admissions due to alcohol have risen by 825 a day in five years to almost a million, researchers found today.

There were 945,469 admissions to hospital for alcohol-related harm in England in 2008/09, they said.

A survey by the North West Public Health Observatory also revealed that more than a quarter of drinkers exceed healthy limits every week, making us a nation of irresponsible boozers.

The findings came as experts recommended a UK-wide price limit on drink should be brought in to try to curb alcohol misuse.

The Alcohol Commission, which was set up by the Labour Party in Scotland, has recommended a ban on selling drink at below the "floor price" of the cost of production, plus the cost of duty and VAT.

In today's study, northerners were found to be the hardest drinkers but the most alcohol-related crimes were committed in London.

The academics, based at Liverpool John Moores University's Centre for Public Health, published their Local Alcohol Profiles for England (Lape 2010) report.

Professor Mark Bellis, the observatory's director, said: "The price we pay for turning a blind eye to the real extent of alcohol abuse across England is reflected in the new Local Alcohol Profiles for England and it is a price that is paid especially by the poorest communities.

"The English death toll from alcohol now exceeds fifteen-and-a-half thousand people every year.

"It is time to recognise that we are not a population of responsible drinkers with just a handful of irresponsible individuals ruining it for others.

"Over one in four drinkers exceed weekly limits according to national surveys and alcohol sales figures suggest the number is much higher.

"At weekends, by the early morning hours our city centres do not have just a few drunk individuals in them - actually most people are drunk yet continue to be able to buy alcohol despite such sales being illegal.

"We need to see the real cost of alcohol reflected in the price it is sold at and the warnings about the dangers that alcohol represents not relegated to a tiny corner in alcohol adverts, but written large enough for people to recognise the seriousness of the risks."

Key indicators such as healthcare, criminal justice, benefits claimants, drinking patterns and deaths were considered in mapping the nation's booze breakdown.

Researchers also found:

:: Two thirds (65%) of all local authorities suffering the highest levels of overall harm are in England's North West and North East.

:: The 10 local authority areas with the highest levels of combined alcohol-related harm, in descending order, are: Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Rochdale, Tameside, Islington, Middlesbrough, Halton, Oldham and Blackpool.

:: By comparison the East and South East contained two thirds (65%) of all the local authorities with the lowest overall harm. The 10 local authorities with the lowest levels of alcohol-related harm, in ascending order, are: Broadland, East Dorset, South Northamptonshire, Babergh, Three Rivers, South Norfolk, Hart, Sevenoaks, Wokingham and North Kesteven.

:: Across England, there were 415,059 recorded crimes attributable to alcohol in 2009/10; equivalent to 8.1 crimes per 1,000 population. The highest rates of alcohol-attributable crime occur in the London region where there were 12.2 crimes per 1,000 residents, although this has decreased by 2.1% from the previous year. The lowest rate is in the North East region at 6.2 crimes per 1,000 which also showed the largest decrease (13.5%) from the previous year.

Dr Ruth Hussey, regional director of public health for the North West, said: "We are once again reminded of the terrible burden that the abuse of alcohol causes to residents of the North West through its affects of ill health and crime.

"The North West alone saw over 100,000 individuals admitted into hospital for alcohol related reasons in 2008/09.

"Parts of the North West have already pioneered new ways to educate the public about alcohol and improve access to care for those requiring support. Alcohol costs people their jobs, their health and their lives."

Health minister Lord Howe said: "Levels of alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime, ill-health and deaths are unacceptable and we have already outlined our commitment to tackling the problem by taking action to stop the sale of alcohol below cost, to review alcohol taxation and price, and introducing a tougher licensing regime.

"Supply and price are not the only factors fuelling misuse though, attitudes are crucial. We need to understand better the psychology behind why different groups of people drink too much. Legislation or initiatives will not work unless we have a better understanding of what drives people's decisions.

"We will work across Government, society, communities and families to challenge negative social norms that cause social problems and promote the positives."

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