Alcohol focus for new NHS plan

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Alcohol care teams will offer support to alcohol-dependent patients in more hospitals, as part of the new NHS long-term plan. The teams will be rolled out in hospitals with the highest number of alcohol-related admissions to provide support to patients and their families, with the service to be made available in the ‘25 per cent worst affected parts of the country’.

‘Drinking to excess can destroy families, with the NHS too often left to pick up the pieces,’ said NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

Alcohol care teams in hospitals in Bolton, Salford, Nottingham, Liverpool, Portsmouth and London have already led to a reduction in A&E attendances and readmissions, says the NHS, while ambulance call outs have also ‘significantly reduced’. The new teams will work in as many as 50 settings across the country, delivering alcohol checks and providing rapid access to  counselling, medically assisted help to give up alcohol and ‘support to stay off of it’. Although hospital-based, the teams will work with local community services to ‘ensure all needs, including any other health needs, are met’.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 17 per cent over the course of a decade, to 337,000 in 2016-17. NHS England estimates the annual cost of alcohol-related harm at £3.5bn.

The initiative is part of a major focus on prevention in the new NHS plan, alongside support for patients who smoke and action on obesity and diabetes. Partners of pregnant women will also be encouraged to stop smoking to ‘give new mums the best chance of not smoking again’.

‘Drinking to excess can destroy families, with the NHS too often left to pick up the pieces,’ said NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. ‘Alcohol and tobacco addiction remain two of the biggest causes of ill health and early death, and the right support can save lives. The NHS long-term plan delivers a sea change in care for a range of major conditions like cancer, mental ill health and heart disease, as well as stepping up to do more on preventing ill health in the first place by giving patients the support they need to take greater control of their own health and stay fitter longer.’

The focus on managing alcohol-related ill health was ‘very welcome’, said Royal College of Physicians president Andrew Goddard. It is an increasing problem in our hospitals where many patients first come to the attention of the NHS. We mustn’t forget prevention though and further measures to reduce harmful drinking are much needed.’

www.longtermplan.nhs.uk