'Social issues' cost hospitals £100,000

Social problems like homelessness and alcoholism cost hospital chiefs in South Tyneside almost £100,000 during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

By Patrick Jack
Friday, 29th April 2022, 1:01 pm
South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

NHS Digital data shows some 260 emergency care admissions to South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust had a diagnosis of "social problems” - including chronic alcoholism and homelessness – in 2020-21, costing the Trust £99,052 to treat.

Although down from 330 the year before – when the issue cost £102,216 – charities say illnesses caused by social issues are a growing problem for health services.

The figures also cover a range of other categories – including nutritional disorder, safeguarding abuse, social problems in schools and poor social circumstances.

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More than 50,500 patients were admitted to hospitals, minor injury units and walk-in centres with issues such as these in England last year – up from 48,300 the year before – but the £21.1m cost was up from £13.m.

Matt Downie, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said something as simple as lack of ID can make going to a GP impossible for people experiencing homelessness – meaning health issues often are not addressed until a critical point.

He added: "The fact that people are accessing treatment is positive, but the focus must be on getting tailored health care support early on."

In terms of cost, social problems was ranked 32nd out of the 38 different types of emergency care diagnosis listed at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust and was responsible for less than one per cent of its £43.2m total costs.