UK: Alcohol Burden on Health System Even Bigger than Expected
New report reveals staggering alcohol cost to National Health Services (NHS). One in 10 people in a hospital bed are alcohol-dependent and one in five are harming themselves by their alcohol consumption.
The health services in the UK are struggling to cope with the numbers of people being brought to A&E or mental health units due to alcohol use.
The NHS itself estimates the cost of treatment at about £3.5bn a year. For the first time, a major review can now also show the numbers of patients affected. Combining the results of 124 previous studies involving 1.6 million hospital patients reveals that 20% use alcohol at hazardous levels, for instance by binge alcohol use, while 10% are dependent on alcohol.
Experts say alcohol services in the NHS and the community have been cut, leaving a health service struggling to cope with the alcohol burden.
These numbers are shocking: the number of beds used, the cost to the NHS, the sheer number of people suffering as a result of alcohol,” said Dr Richard Piper, the chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, per The Guardian.
As dedicated alcohol treatment services have faced years of cuts, hospitals are being left to pick up the pieces – but most simply do not have the expertise or capacity to do so, resulting in alcohol problems going untreated and those suffering returning to hospital time and time again.”
The review, led by Dr Emmert Roberts from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, calls for all patients admitted to hospital to be screened for their alcohol use and for medical staff to be trained in how to diagnose and treat those patients with alcohol problems.
The message needs to get out there that this is a very prevalent, very common condition, and unless we start treating these people, obviously we are going to keep on having a rise in alcohol-related hospital admissions,” said Dr Emmert Roberts, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, per The Guardian.
Unfortunately, there’s been a reduction in trained addiction psychiatrists in the UK over the last five years and a reduction in real-terms funding to community specialist alcohol treatment services, and because of that there’s been a large reduction in the knowledge base of the healthcare profession around alcohol and other substance abuses.”
The government had funded alcohol care teams in the 25% of hospitals that were worst affected but experts don’t think that’s enough. Experts request alcohol specialists in 100% of hospitals given the magnitude of the nationwide problem.
Pervasive alcohol harm fueled by invasive alcohol norm
What we must recognise is that there are more people with alcohol problems in the UK than most of us realise,” said Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, calling for minimum unit pricing and restrictions on alcohol marketing, according to The Telegraph.
We must wake up to the unacceptable levels of suffering that alcohol is causing our society.”
A study published in BMJ Open in May revealed one in five people in England has been harmed in the last year by somebody else’s alcohol use.