The impact of alcohol on the nation’s health is beginning to shade from a worry into a crisis. Dr Foster Intelligence’s exclusive analysis for HSJ shows that 7 per cent of hospital admissions are related to alcohol.
More worrying, this represents a 50 per cent increase in just eight years. By 2020 we might be blaming more than one in 10 admissions on the bottle.
Of course, the burden is not evenly spread - in some cities in the Midlands and the North, the crisis has already arrived. You can visit www.performance-healthcheck.co.uk to see precisely the situation in your area.
The societal impact of alcohol is well documented. But the trend is also having a huge economic impact on the health service. As well as the extra resources involved in dealing with the increase, many alcohol related admissions arrive via the emergency department so trusts now only receive a small proportion of the tariff price.
With government acting far too timidly, it is left to those newly charged with shaping England’s health services to step into the breach.
Local authorities have been given the responsibility to determine the health needs of their populations and to work with partners to ensure the appropriate response is delivered. Many GPs will only be too willing to provide the clinical credibility for any action, managers can provide the economic case. Councils must intervene in the most locally effective way - and, yes, that should include exploring licencing powers to restrict the availability of cheap alcohol.