More drinkers in Norfolk are going to hospital because of alcohol

PUBLISHED: 15:34 06 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 06 May 2017

Alcohol-related admissions to hospitals has soared by 54pc in seven years. Pic: Ian West/PA Wire

Alcohol-related admissions to hospitals has soared by 54pc in seven years. Pic: Ian West/PA Wire

Drinking is putting more and more strain on our hospitals, with the number of alcohol-related admissions going up in Norwich by 54pc in seven years.

There were 2,725 admissions linked to alcohol in Norwich in 2015/16, according to data from Public Health England published on Wednesday.

And in Norfolk as a whole, patients are being admitted to hospital more than 50 times a day with conditions linked to alcohol.

The number has gone up in Norfolk every year since 2008.

People were admitted to hospitals in Norfolk 19,631 times in 2015/16 with a primary diagnosis or secondary diagnoses linked to drinking alcohol.

But younger people appear to be binge drinking less, with 128 taken to hospital in Norfolk from drinking too much last year, compared to 167 five years before. The number for Norwich was 26, down from 37 five years earlier.

Separate data also published on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the age group most likely to drink on five or more days a week are those aged 65 and over,

Such regular drinking is over three times more likely among those aged 65 and over than people aged 16 to 24, the data showed.

Dr Tony Rao, co-chairman of the older people’s substance misuse working group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “These figures show that alcohol abuse is not a ‘young person problem’.

“It’s very concerning that while the rest of the population, including younger people, reduces its alcohol intake, baby boomers are drinking at a similar rate as before - and exceeding recommended guidelines.”

There is around one death a day in Norfolk related to alcohol, according to the Public Health England figures, a fall of 11pc on the year before.

The areas in the county with the highest rate of deaths from alcohol are Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, meanwhile, has the highest rate of hospital admissions linked to alcohol, while South Norfolk has the lowest.

Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the NHS about £3.5bn a year.

•‘Loneliness and isolation may be a factor’

The chairman of consumer champion Healthwatch Norfolk has described the increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions as “very worrying”.

William Armstrong said: “Quite often there will be underlying problems, including mental health issues, and people resort to drinking, thinking that is a way to improve their lives, when in fact it has the reverse effect.

“There are services out there which can help.

“I think loneliness and isolation may be a factor in some of the cases of older people who are drinking to excess.

“We need fewer people to be drinking - often very strong alcohol - at home and people to go to support their local pubs.”

“Drinking in a pub is seen as an adjunct to social engagement, rather than as an end to itself.”

•‘One of the greatest risks to our health’

A charity which provides vital support to people who abuse alcohol has urged people concerned about their drinking to seek help.

And Paul Martin, chief executive of The Matthew Project, based in Norwich, says it is time misuse of alcohol is recognised as a health problem.

He said: “We are concerned about the growth in the harm that alcohol causes to so many people and encourage anyone who is worried about their drinking to contact us for advice and help.

“We are realising that alcohol is one of the greatest risks to our health and communities and should be seen now as a health problem and not a problem to be embarrassed about or have any stigma over.”

A free, confidential helpline is on 0300 7900 227 or, for young people, 0800 970 4866.

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