There were 338,000 hospital admissions in 2017-18 where the ‘main cause’ was a result of drinking alcohol, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital, a 15 per cent increase on a decade ago. People over 45 accounted for almost 70 per cent of the admissions, with more than 20 per cent of adults drinking over the government’s recommended 14 units per week.
The figures are based on a measure where alcohol-related diseases, conditions or injuries were the primary reason for admission – using the broader measure of looking at ‘a range of other conditions that could be caused by alcohol’, the numbers rise to 1.2m.
There were 5,800 ‘alcohol-specific’ deaths in 2017, up 6 per cent on the previous year and 16 per cent higher than a decade ago, with alcoholic liver disease accounting for 80 per cent of the deaths.
While those in the higher income brackets were more likely to drink above government guidelines, alcohol-specific death rates were once again highest in the most deprived areas, and – despite the rising rates of hospital admissions and deaths – the number of people in treatment for problematic drinking fell from by 6 per cent between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
‘Once again these figures demonstrate that it is the most vulnerable in our communities who are suffering because cheap alcohol is far too available,’ said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘In fact, studies suggest that there tend to be more outlets selling alcohol in poorer areas than in more affluent communities. These figures send a strong message to the government that an evidence-based approach to tackling alcohol harm is long overdue if they are truly committed to tackling health inequalities.’
The government’s forthcoming alcohol strategy ‘must’ include measures to tackle affordability, availability and promotion, he said, and should ‘start by following Scotland’s example’ of introducing a minimum unit price. ‘The measure would save lives amongst poorer groups and at the same time reduce the pressure on our over-stretched public services,’ he said.