latest health care news

09.12.13

Alcohol pressures on NHS highest in middle-aged patients

Middle-aged drinkers are costing the NHS millions, new research indicates.

Dr Foster’s latest Annual Hospital Guide 2013 shows that problems relating to alcohol and drugs now cost the NHS £607m a year.

The analysis highlighted that almost one in five patients in their 40s admitted in 2012-13 were classed as emergency admissions due to a known drug or alcohol issue. Those in their 30s and 50s also had high numbers of admissions.

Across socio-economic groups, people with the most deprived incomes made up 36% of all admissions for drink and drug problems.

Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation, said: “It's all too easy to dupe ourselves that binge-drinking teenagers or stag and hen parties in their 20s are the cause of alcohol-related pressures on the health service. Today's news puts this myth firmly back in its place and makes it even more important that as a society we seriously examine the impact our drinking habits have on our health – and on our health service.”

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association said: “It is vital that we take more action to tackle the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on the UK's population and the NHS. As the Dr Foster research highlights, this is a problem that affects large numbers of people across all age groups and as a result places serious strain on a number of already overstretched NHS services.

“We cannot afford to keep spending millions of pounds in today's economic climate on mopping up the after-effects of an alcohol problem that the government should tackle with a greater emphasis on preventive measures.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are helping the NHS target harmful drinkers with measures such as increasing the use of interventions by health professionals, and introducing alcohol liaison nurses in A&E. However, there must also be more focus on prevention, not just treatment, for those with existing problems. That is why alcohol is addressed by GPs as part of the NHS health check.

“We are also working to both reduce harmful drug and alcohol use and to increase the numbers recovering from their dependence. Our focus is on combining health and social policies to help people affected access services, rebuild their lives and play a full part in society.”

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