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Call for more resources to help alcohol dependent people admitted to hospital

A hospital admission is a crisis point for someone with alcohol issues, which can trigger change, but all too often it doesn’t.

New figures obtained by Port of Call indicate the scale of people being admitted to hospital more than once for alcohol related issues – implying at least some did not get the help they needed to stop drinking the first time around.

In one part of the country, said by some measures to have some of the worst issues with alcohol related issues, more than a third of those admitted for alcohol related reasons in 2017/18 had been an inpatient for a drink related reason before.

The right help at the right time saves lives

Port of Call founder Martin Preston said: “As with all figures and statistics, of course, these numbers tell only part of the story, but by publishing them, we hope to open a discussion about the lack of resources in hospitals to genuinely help those facing alcohol issues.

“Hospitals tend to have to concentrate on repairing the physical damage. With alcohol dependency that task is almost futile if nothing is then done to get to the root of the problem and allow someone the help and support they need to stop or control their drinking.

“We don’t seek to comment on the practices of the specific hospitals we’ve highlighted, where we have no doubt staff are already doing all they can. Rather, we’re saying under-pressure NHS hospitals rarely have the time and resources necessary to address the complex emotional and entrenched issues around dependent drinking. Solving this wholly would be a huge task but even improved signposting and follow-up could make a big difference.

“Of course, there will always be those people whose drinking has caused a complex issue that will lead to more than one hospital admission. Others are not ready to take the action necessary to overcome their alcohol related issues. It is our expectation that there are also an awful lot of people who, had they got the support required when first admitted to hospital, would not have been admitted a second time. 

“Getting the right help for people at the right time saves lives and reduces the ongoing burden on our stretched health services.”

There were national headlines recently when a new analysis of more than 100 studies involving 1.6 million patients showed one in 10 people in a hospital bed is alcohol dependent. One in five was said to be doing themselves harm by drinking. 

That came on the back of our own study, ‘Attitudes to Addiction in 2019,’ which found only one in four people believe alcohol is the biggest problem substance in the UK. Yet, there are vastly more hospital admissions and deaths due to alcohol than illegal drugs, official figures show.

Blackpool alcohol related hospital admission – our findings

According to Public Health England, Blackpool had the highest number of hospital admissions in 2017/18 where alcohol was the main cause of admission. There were an equivalent of 1,097 admissions per 100,000 population last year, figures show.

Blackpool also has the worst alcohol-related mortality rate in the country with 84.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2017. And it is worst for alcohol-specific mortality, with 30.1 deaths per 100,000, in 2015-17, official figures show.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told us it had 653 alcohol related admissions last year and 73 of those patients were admitted more than once, following a Freedom of Information request.

South Tyneside alcohol related hospital admissions

South Tyneside ranked as the second worst in England in 2017/18 for alcohol related hospital admissions, according to Public Health England. Figures show an equivalent of 1,041 admissions per 100,000 population where alcohol was the main reason for admission. 

According to official figures, South Tyneside is worst in the country for admission episodes for alcohol specific conditions – under 18s, with 106.5 per 100,000 2015/16 – 17/18.

The former South Tyneside Foundation Trust told us 1,228 people were admitted for alcohol related reasons in 2017/18. Of those 464 patients had a previous alcohol related admission.

Alcohol related hospital admissions continue to rise 

These latest figures only add to an increasingly concerning picture in relation to alcohol related hospital admissions.

Public Health England figures released in February showed a rise in the number of hospital admissions due to alcohol for the ninth year in a row.

Help is available for those worried about their alcohol use

Information and support is available for anyone worried about their drinking or that of a loved one. Do contact us free if you’d like to talk.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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