Alcohol Abuse in England Make Big Problems to Authorities
LIVERPOOL-.A study by the Royal College of Physicians said drink-related health problems could account for up to 12% of total NHS spending on hospitals, about £3 billion.
But campaigners said that with the estimated £3 billion lost through absenteeism, unemployment, premature deaths and alcohol-related crimes and accidents the total cost of excessive drinking is £6 billion.
They called on the Government to speed up publication of its long-awaited strategy for reducing alcohol misuse in the UK.
The RCP report estimated that treating alcohol misuse cost the NHS between 2% and 12% of its total expenditure on hospitals.
In addition, one in five patients admitted to hospital for illnesses unrelated to alcohol have a potentially dangerous drinking habit.
Studies have shown that 15% of women and 27% of men are drinking more than weekly recommended levels.
The RCP report said teenage drinking was increasing, with more than half of 14 and 15 year olds admitting to hitting the bottle in the previous week.
Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the RCP working party which produced the report, said: "Alcohol is an issue which needs to be tackled on all fronts, especially by changing attitudes to alcohol-related problems across the NHS.
"If we start at the sharp end of hospital admissions with detection and simple intervention for patients who are starting to drink dangerously, there is good evidence that we can make a real difference."
Eric Appleby, director of Alcohol Concern, said: "The Royal College's report is further proof that the Government needs to look at the full health, economic and social effects of alcohol misuse and devise a concerted strategy to tackle the problem.
"At the moment different departments have responsibility for various aspects of alcohol policy - with the National Health Service generally dealing with the symptoms of inaction."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health disputed the claim that alcohol misuse was costing the NHS £3 billion.
She said: "We recognise that alcohol misuse places a heavy burden on all of us.
"Not only does it cost society and individuals, it is also estimated that alcohol misuse costs £207 million to the NHS.
"We agree with the Royal College of Physicians' findings on the importance of brief interventions.
"These can be administered in primary and secondary care through social services and through the criminal justice system and there's sound evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness.
"A consultation paper to tackle a national strategy on alcohol misuse which will be published shortly will consider ways in which barriers can be broken down."
A spokeswoman for the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, said: "We fully support their targeted recommendations towards individuals who misuse and abuse alcohol.
"But the figure should be viewed against the £11.5 billion a year which the drinks industry contributes to the public spending purse from duty and VAT alone.
"We also fund independent medical research and campaign to discourage drinking and driving as part of a host of other initiatives.