Alcohol abuse affects one in five UK inpatients, study suggests

Henrietta Strickland
Июля 5, 2019

One in ten people in NHS hospitals is alcohol dependent, according to a major study which calls for all patients to be quizzed on their drinking habits.

Harmful alcohol use is 10 times higher and dependence eight times higher in hospital inpatients than in other people, the study suggests.

"What we must recognise is that there are more people with alcohol problems in the United Kingdom than most of us realise", he said, calling for minimum unit pricing and restrictions on alcohol marketing.

The study was published in the Addiction journal.

The prevalence of alcohol-related conditions was already thought to be higher in hospital inpatients compared with the general population, but until now we have not had reliable estimates of the true overall prevalence of these conditions in the inpatient population.

Moreover, harmful alcohol dependence was common among inpatients from mental units and cases of alcohol dependence were common in emergency and accident departments.

Alcohol-related conditions are estimated to cost the NHS around £3.5bn per year, the team said.

King's College London researchers want people with issues caused by drinking to be screened. "Dedicated inpatient alcohol care teams are needed to ensure this widespread problem is being addressed, particularly in the context of diminishing numbers of specialist community alcohol services in the United Kingdom", says Dr Emmert Roberts.

But he warned: "Our results suggest the problem is much bigger than anecdotally assumed".

According to reports, alcohol dependence screening for patients was limited, in addition to insufficient services for alcohol dependent patients.

Another study published in May said drinkers in the United Kingdom get drunk more often than any other nationality, with respondents reporting getting drunk 51.1 times in a 12-month period - nearly once a week.

"Dedicated inpatient alcohol care teams are needed to ensure this widespread problem is being addressed, particularly in the context of diminishing numbers of specialist community alcohol services in the United Kingdom". Accurate prevalence estimates are vital to inform policy makers of the scale of the problem and are particularly timely given the United Kingdom government's development of a new alcohol strategy and the NHS 10-year plan, which includes funding allocations to combat alcohol-related conditions.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: "Alcohol dependence can devastate families with the NHS often left to pick up the pieces, yet the right support can save lives".

Kate Oldridge-Turner, head of policy and public affairs at the World Cancer Research Fund, said the figures were worrying.

"We need the government to empower people to drink less by making our daily environments healthier".

A year ago a study in the Lancet found that the United Kingdom is nearly unique, in the fact that on average, women are drinking the same amount as men. A recent report suggests there has been a substantial fall in the volume of alcohol sold at very low prices.

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