New NHS figures show that nearly 10 million people each year need treatment from the NHS due to alcohol. The report outlines not just the scale of the problem but the cost to taxpayers.
It found that 6 out of 10 alcohol related hospital visits ended in the A&E and the total cost of alcohol treatments for the NHS in England alone came to £3.5 billion. This cost only takes into account health problems directly attributable to alcohol. The total bill for alcohol related harm is estimated to be much higher, nearly £21 billion per year.
While emergency departments in hospitals take the largest numbers of alcohol patients, the long term illnesses caused by alcohol misuse incur the highest costs.
The NHS has estimated that nearly half of all head and neck cancers can be attributed to alcohol. Add to that other cancers, liver disease, stomach cancers and the variety of other problems faced by long term problem drinkers and the hospital bills spiral out of control.
With 9.6 million people now drinking more than the government recommendations and 2.4 million of those labelled as high risk, drinkers are putting what some describe as an “intolerable strain” on the NHS.
Faced with the growing problem of drinking, the Department of Health released a statement saying, “We know that alcohol-fuelled harm costs society about £21 billion a year and are determined to reduce this burden to taxpayers. The rise in admissions is very concerning and we are taking action to tackle cheap and harmful alcohol.”
“We have given local authorities £8.2 million over three years to tackle health issues in their communities life harmful drinking.”
“We are working with industry to promote drinking within recommended guidelines and responsible drinking through local schemes, and are already making headway by removing a billion units from the market over four years.”