Labour pledges to fund alcohol care specialists in NHS hospitals

Shadow health secretary promises £13.5m for support teams and condemns cuts to treatment services

Adam Forrest
Sunday 23 September 2018 18:39 BST
Alcohol-related hospital admissions hit record high after addiction support services slashed

A Labour government would fund teams of alcohol addiction specialists in every NHS hospital in England, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said.

Mr Ashworth pledged to spend £13.5m to make sure all 191 district hospitals have at least three staff to provide help to patients admitted with drink-related problems.

The Leicester South MP claimed 600,000 alcohol-dependent people were not receiving the support they need following cuts to treatment services.

And figures obtained by Labour through freedom of information requests show that at least 41 English hospitals do not have an alcohol care team in place.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Liverpool, the the shadow health secretary said: “It seems to me we are ignoring huge numbers of people in society who have an addiction problem, whether it's for alcohol or drugs.

“I think we are failing large numbers of people,” he added. “Not only is it wrong for those people, it also puts huge pressure on the wider NHS.”

There were more than 1.1 million alcohol-related admissions to hospitals in England last year. The number has risen by more than two-thirds over a decade, according to figures released by Public Health England earlier this year.

Mr Ashworth said research suggested investing in alcohol care teams inside hospitals could save the NHS money in the long term by reducing the length and frequency of repeated stays in hospital.

The chief executive of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, Richard Piper, welcomed Labour’s pledge to fund specialist teams.

“All the evidence suggests these teams not only help people get the support they need, but that they also save the NHS money,” said Dr Piper.

“Cuts to treatment damage lives and are a false economy, so initiatives such as this represent a clear step in the right direction.”

Mr Ashworth talked about his own experience of growing up with an alcoholic father. He said: “There are times when I ask myself, “Is this genetic?””

Although he is not teetotal, the Labour MP said he often goes up to four months without any alcohol.

Alcohol is the root cause of more than one in 20 deaths across the world, according to the latest report by the World Health Organisation.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in