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Health bosses count the cost of binge drinking in Craven and Harrogate

[Thursday 23 February 2006]

The startling cost to people's health and local NHS budgets as a result of binge drinking is revealed in the latest Public Health Annual Report published by the Craven, Harrogate and Rural District (CHARD) Primary Care Trust.

Within the Trust - which covers the towns of Skipton, Settle, Harrogate, Ripon, Boroughbridge, and a wide rural area - there are over 500 admissions to hospital every year for alcohol-related problems.

With an average cost to the PCT of approximately £520 per admission, this puts an astonishing £260,000 annual dent in the local health budget.

'Binge drinking' is a term coined nationally and refers to the fact that people who do 'binge' on alcohol are drinking twice the recommended daily limit.

Statistics show that within the Craven, Harrogate and Rural District, binge drinking is a real problem that is not only confined the young, but rather it affects a wide span of age groups.

According to a study published as part of the report, the problem is most acute in males aged between 30 and 59, with men in the 40 to 49 age group showing the highest level of all, accounting for 14% of alcohol related admissions.

Binge drinking among the young - those aged 16 to 24 - is also higher in the region than is the average for England.

"The statistics are quite startling in terms of the scale of the problem and the knock-on effect this has on local health services", said Dr Andrew Clark, Director of Public Health at CHARD.

Adding: "Significant amounts of NHS cash, not to mention the time of hospital staff in accident and emergency and the wards, is being diverted into dealing with the after effects of people alcohol drinking to extreme.

"This in turn is taking resources away from people in our area who are ill and need help". Alcohol now plays an ever increasing part in our everyday lives. On a national level over 90% of adults - almost 40 million people - consume alcohol and associate it with pleasure and relaxation.

Across Craven a recent survey found that 33% of people see 'going to the pub' as a hobby, in Harrogate the figure is 42%.

Dr Clark continued: "We are not killjoys and recognise that alcohol plays an important role in our society.

"It is important that people take time to examine their lifestyle, and how and why they drink alcohol.

"As well as costing the NHS a lot of money needlessly, people are putting their personal safety at risk and endangering their long-term health.

"This is a question of balance. I would stress that drinking in moderation can in fact have some health benefits. There is evidence to suggest that a small amount of alcohol gives protection against coronary heart disease, this is because alcohol influences the amount of cholesterol carried in the bloodstream and also makes it less likely for a clot to form".

For more information visit www.drinkaware.co.uk

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