Alcohol, Hospital Admissions and Minimum Pricing
The Government is in the process of carrying out a public consultation on a minimum price per unit for alcohol. This is set to be 45p per unit. This consultation runs until 6 February 2013. The Government said implementation of a min price would lead to an estimated reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a reduction in 24,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year after ten years.
In Cornwall, just under a quarter of the over 16 population of Cornwall & Isles of Scilly (102,000 people) regularly drink above recommended safe levels of alcohol. In addition, 66,500 people are ‘binge drinkers’ (drinking more than double the daily unit guidelines in one session). However, the majority of drinkers do so without harm to themselves, their friends and families, and the community as a whole. I should also say this is not a lecture on drinking either.This blog is on the effects alcohol has on services, like the NHS which includes hospital admissions. And should a min price be implemented?
Those aged 18 and under, the good news is hospital admission rates are failing from 100 per 100,00 in 2004/05 – 2006/07, to now 60 per 100,00 for the period 2008/09 – 2010/11. For the latter period, the main causes on admission were found to be: mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (71%) and Ethanol poisoning (29%).
Sadly, for all ages, hospital admissions are on the rise for both male and females. In 2006/7 it was 350 per 100,000 people, but now it is at the 450 per 100,000. It also shows males are admitted more than females. The main causes of alcohol specific admissions were: mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (64%); alcoholic liver disease (18%) and ethanol poisoning (15%).
The age band with the highest frequency of admissions for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol is 40-49 years and for ethanol poisoning it is also 40-49 years, with a secondary peak at age 20-29 years. The age band with the highest frequency of admissions due to alcoholic liver disease is 60-69 years. That last figure is hardly surprising if you have been drinking heavily for that long.
The death rates are also pause for thought and have risen slightly in Cornwall & IoS over recent years for both males and females. Both have been below national rates although the rate of female mortality is now close to the England rate. In 2008-10, 159 deaths in Cornwall and IoS were from conditions wholly due to alcohol.
The question is will a minimum price per unit really change the culture of drinking in this country? My fear it will not, because drink is so engrained in our culture. But what else can we, or should we do? The issue is so serious, reducing alcohol-related harm has been identified as a priority by Cornwall’s Health and Well Being Board. And the alcohol strategy for Cornwall has been refreshed during 2012. Its main aims are to:
- enable people to make informed choices about alcohol
- increase services to reduce harm caused by alcohol
- create partnerships to reduce alcohol’s impact on the community
I have only covered the effects on hospital admission, but what about the impact on other resources like Policing? It all adds up. What is your view on the min price? Do you think it will work?
Data taken from Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee Alcohol-related hospital admissions Report: 8th Jan 2013