December 13, 2016

Alcohol misuse has a huge impact on hospital emergency departments

A new summary report, produced by Balance, the North East England Alcohol Office, details the impact of alcohol misuse on NHS emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care services.

The report reveals that the cost of alcohol-related Emergency Department attendances at one of the region’s largest hospitals has been conservatively estimated at £1m per year.

However, it is not just the financial costs that are raising concerns.

Here is a summary of the toll alcohol misuse has on the region's medical staff, as well as the wider community:

  • The latest figures from Balance estimate that alcohol costs the NHS £2.7bn annually, with the North East figure totalling £242m, equating to £93 per person in the region. (Balance Cost Profiles 2014-2015).
  • ED and urgent care staff have become “immersed in the effects of alcohol” and “desensitised to its impact”.
  • In the region’s larger EDs, it is common to treat 30-40 patients a day who have been drinking, diverting resources from other cases.
  • The problem is so great that some of the region’s larger EDs employ a permanent security presence to help maintain order.
  • Young women in their 20s and 30s and older people are increasingly arriving in EDs with alcohol-related issues.
  • Alcohol-related attendances account for up to 72% of cases on Fridays / Saturdays from 2am- 3am.

The report states that "NHS staff in our region’s emergency and urgent care departments are dealing with the impact of alcohol misuse on a daily basis, with many becoming ‘desensitised’ to the problem. Balance visited hospitals and urgent care services across the North East, conducting meetings with staff at all levels of the NHS to assess the impact of alcohol misuse on their working lives".


The report conlcudes with this statement:

"Alcohol misuse has a huge impact on the region’s emergency departments and urgent care services, placing an unsustainable burden on staff and services, day and night. With the NHS already under pressure, it is hugely important to reduce the excessive burden placed on both staff and services by potentially avoidable alcohol-related attendances.

"To reduce the burden alcohol places on our frontline services, alcohol should be less affordable, less available and less widely promoted. The Government needs to support a range of targeted, evidence-based measures such as a minimum unit price, which has been shown to save lives, reduce hospital admissions and lessen the financial burden alcohol places on frontline services."


Source: Balance - Paying the Price: Urgent Care Report