Pledge to tackle alcohol-related health in face of record death levels

A plan to tackle alcohol-related health problems in Essex has been drawn up amid concerns the number of people being hospitalised with associated diseases is rising.

Essex County Council says by 2024 it wants to have increased the proportion of dependent drinkers accessing effective treatment from ten per cent to 20 per cent, which is above the Government’s recommendation of 15 per cent.

The authority also wants to have “continued to reduce the rate of increase in alcohol-related hospital admission to five per cent”.

The director of Public Health and the executive director of Adult Social Care have been charged with developing strategic plans, identifying the ambitions and outcomes to which Essex County Council is committed for achievement by 2025 as part of its Public Health and Adult Social Care Priorities.

In Essex, there were 30,500 people admitted to hospital in 2018/19 – up 39 per cent in six years from 22,070 in 2012/2013.

Conditions for hospital admission due to alcohol include cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, alcohol poisoning, and alcoholic liver disease.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics have revealed that alcohol-specific deaths recorded in 2020, whilst the pandemic hit the world, are the highest ever recorded in history for people living across the East of England.

The data – analysed by alcohol-addiction treatment experts UKAT – shows that the alcohol death toll across the East in 2020 stands at 568 – a five per cent annual rise from when 543 alcohol-specific deaths were recorded.

The death toll has also risen by 50 per cent since records began in 2013, when just 378 people living across the East lost their lives to alcohol.

An alcohol-specific death is categorised by certain causes of death, such as alcoholic liver disease, accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis and mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol, alcoholic cardiomyopathy and the degeneration of the nervous system due to alcohol.

The death rate per 100,000 people reached a high of 9.6 in the last quarter of 2020, the second highest age-standardised alcohol death rate since records began.

Nuno Albuquerque, Head of Treatment for the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) said: “We must remember that these aren’t just numbers.

“These are people’s mothers, fathers, neighbours and friends living across the East who have lost their lives to alcohol.

“The ramifications of which meant that people had to endure the heartache of losing a loved one to a substance so widely accepted in society in the midst of a global pandemic.

“2020 was an incredibly difficult year, and so it is saddening but unsurprising to see that more people than ever turned to alcohol as a coping strategy, which in these instances, caused them to lose their lives.”

The Department of Health and Social Care in England said it was giving £3.2bn to local authorities across the country to spend on services including drug and alcohol treatment, but the experts at UKAT worry this money will just “get lost in the system”.

Mr Albuquerque: “Council leaders have the power to help in their hands; they just have to choose where to spend the money, and not let money that should be allocated on vital, effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes get lost in the system because if it does, then more people will die.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter