The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England has exceeded one million in a year for the first time, a report has found.
Figures compiled by the NHS Information Centre for the year 2009-2010 revealed 1,057,000 hospital visits in relation to alcohol, a 12% increase on the previous year and more than double the amount recorded in 2002-2003.
The statistics, which cover the period of April 2009 to the end of March 2010, were published today in the NHS IC's annual report, Statistics on Alcohol: England 2011.
A breakdown of the figures showed that 63% of the hospital admissions were for men and found that there were higher rates of alcohol-related admissions for older adult age groups than their younger counterparts.
The report also looked at prescriptions data, revealing that alcohol dependency cost the NHS £2.41 million in prescription items last year, an increase of 1.4% on the amount spent in the previous year. The figures for alcohol-related prescription items were highest in the North West and the North East, and lowest in London, according to the research.
Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: "Today's report shows the number of people admitted to hospital each year for alcohol-related problems has topped one million for the first time. The report also highlights the increasing cost of alcohol dependency to the NHS as the number of prescription items dispensed continues to rise.
"This report provides health professionals and policy makers with a useful picture of the health issues relating to alcohol use and misuse. It also highlights the importance of policy makers and health professionals in recognising and tackling alcohol misuse which, in turn, could lead to savings for the NHS."
Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, said: "Alcohol-related hospital admissions exceeding one million represents a worrying landmark in the impact alcohol is having on UK society.
"Anyone requiring hospital treatment for alcohol- related illness is a cause for concern, and with increasing admissions in all age groups from 16 to 75+ it's clear we cannot afford to rest on our laurels."
He added: "If we can help people re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol, we can start to change the drinking culture in the UK, reducing consumers' risk levels and relieving the burden on society from health and social costs."
David Poley, chief executive of drinks industry body the Portman Group, said: "It is surprising that hospital admissions have apparently doubled over a period in which alcohol consumption has significantly declined.
"If the hospital admissions data are robust, they clearly put paid to the argument that measures to reduce overall alcohol consumption are effective in reducing harm.
"The report shows that the proportion of people misusing alcohol is falling. We just need to find a way of persuading and educating this hard core of mis-users who account for these admissions to drink responsibly."
In contrast to the increased number of hospital admissions, the report also showed an overall decline in weekly alcohol consumption and showed that less people were binge drinking.
Figures also showed an increase in the number of 11-15 year olds who said they had never had an alcoholic drink.
Simon Litherland, managing director of spirits firm Diageo GB, said: "These figures are encouraging news for England. They confirm that alcohol misuse continues to decline and show clear progress in awareness of units and drinking guidelines.
"The statistics reveal that weekly alcohol consumption is down, the number of people who drink at all is down, the number of people drinking on five or more days a week is down, binge drinking is falling and alcohol related deaths are also down."
He added: "Whilst more can always be done, these statistics show positive results in tackling the issue. There will always be a very small minority who misuse alcohol but all the Government and Industry's hard work in tackling the issue is beginning to really take shape."
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