Drink-related hospital stays higher than regional average

Valerie Wood, drug and alcohol liaison nurse specialist; and Dr Vimala Christopher, consultant gastroenterologist
Valerie Wood, drug and alcohol liaison nurse specialist; and Dr Vimala Christopher, consultant gastroenterologist

HOSPITAL admissions for alcohol specific conditions in Bassetlaw are much higher than the regional average.

Data from LAPE - Local Alcohol Profiles for England - rated the district against other Primary Care Organisations in the country.

Bassetlaw came out much worse in comparison to other areas in terms of people needing hospital treatment for alcohol specific conditions, although the data does not include admissions to A&E.

Alcohol specific conditions include alcoholic liver disease and alcohol overdose.

Perhaps surprisingly, more women than men are admitted for treatment for these conditions.

Since 2006, the number of adults admitted to hospital because of a condition attributable to alcohol use has risen steadily.

Alcohol attributable hospital admissions includes anything from stomach cancer to accidental injury.

Dr Vimala Christopher, is one of two consultant gastroenterologists at Bassetlaw Hospital. She has been a consultant for nearly six years.

She said her department was seeing more patients because of alcohol misuse than in the past. And Christmas is a particularly busy time as people consume more alcohol.

“It’s not just patients presenting with acute symptoms but increasing incidences of what were previously thought to be benign diseases like reflux and cancers, associated with alcohol,” said Dr Christopher.

She said other common conditions associated with shorter spells of alcohol dependence included reflux gastritis, neurological disorders, abdominal bloating and internal bleeding.

“In Bassetlaw we don’t do too badly in terms of alcohol related mortality and chronic liver disease,” she continued.

“But the trend we do see, which is true across the country, is younger population coming through.”

“Under 18s usually come in through intoxication. But we are seeing younger patients with end stage liver disease.”

“In the past it has been people in their 40s and 50s, now we’re seeing people in their 20s and 30s, which is a worrying trend.”

Dr Christopher said the trend was ‘undoubtedly’ down to a binge-drinking culture among young people.

She said: “It’s largely down to peer pressure and the mindset that you can only enjoy yourself by drinking in this fashion.”

“That really is a job for the Government to tackle. Bringing in a minimum price per unit will make a difference - it means the long term dependent drinkers can’t buy cheap alcohol.”

“But we also need to make people aware of alcohol content. It would be far better if units were put clearly on bottles and people knew that if you have too much on a regular basis you can cause yourself long term harm.”

“Treating the public like children and telling them they should not drink alcohol will not work. People need to learn to enjoy alcohol responsibly.”

“You can’t push it down people’s throats. I try to approach patients who are binge drinkers and let them know where they can get information from, which has more impact than a lecture. Then they can seek it out for themselves.”

Dr Vimala praised the work of her colleague Val Wood, the hospital’s drug and alcohol liaison nurse, and said more resource should be put into roles like hers.

“Val does a very good job at the hospital screening patients to see what department they need to go to, assisting patients who are waiting for transplant, and helping get people on detox programmes.”

“She also runs a ‘healthy choices’ clinic for outpatients. People were more hesitant to come for help when it was called the alcohol clinic. But patients do respond positively to the services she suggests.”

And the pressure of alcohol on the health system is the same at GP surgeries across Bassetlaw.

Dr Steve Kell, GP at Larwood Surgery in Worksop and chair of Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are seeing an increasing number of alcohol related problems in our surgeries and a significant number of hospital admissions and A&E attendances in Bassetlaw are due to alcohol.”

“There are number of services available to local people and we would encourage anyone who has concerns about their alcohol use to contact their GP.”