Hospital admissions caused by alcohol-related liver disease on the rise

Alcohol-related liver disease is adding to hospital workloads. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images
Alcohol-related liver disease is adding to hospital workloads. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

The impact of alcohol-related liver disease on the health service in South Tyneside has been revealed in newly released figures.

In the 12 months to March this year, 98 people were admitted to hospital with the condition, according to Public Health England.

Dr Shaz Wahid

Dr Shaz Wahid

That means a rate of 66 patients admitted for every 100,000 residents in South Tyneside, higher than the national average of 39.

Liver experts at the Institute of Hepatology said the figures are “horrifying” and called on the Government to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol to discourage drinking.

Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Alcohol-related liver disease is a major cause of premature death in this country and the number of people with the condition has been increasing over the last few decades as a result of increasing levels of alcohol misuse.

“This puts significant pressures on frontline NHS services, such as our own emergency departments in South Tyneside.”

He added: “People often aren’t aware they have liver damage until it is at an advanced stage or until it is diagnosed during tests for other conditions. I would advise anyone drinking alcohol above recommended limits to tell their GP so they can check if their liver is damaged.

“The main treatment is to stop drinking or to stick to the recommended limits to reduce the risk of further damage and give your liver the best chance of recovering. Even if you have been a heavy drinker for many years, reducing or stopping your alcohol intake can have both short and long-term benefits for your overall health.”

The data shows that men are twice as likely as women to receive hospital treatment for this illness across the country.

The rate of alcohol-related liver disease admissions among the most deprived in society is 57 for every 100,000 people, but is below 29 for the most well off.

A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “Liver disease is one of the top causes of death in England and people are dying from it.”

In 2014, the Lancet Commission on alcohol-related liver diseases estimated that health problems caused by alcohol are costing the NHS £3.5billion a year.

Professor Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology, proposed setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb drinking.

He said: “Liver disease mortality rates have increased about 600% in the last 50 years. That happens because alcohol consumption among the population has increased and this is linked to the fact that the costs of alcoholic drinks proportionally have fallen.

“Setting a minimum alcohol price is a highly effective way of dealing with the problem.

“In Canada, they had a 14% drop in emergency admissions and 8% drop in mortality in the first 12 months after setting this minimum.”

Scotland adopted this measure in May, setting a 50 pence minimum price per unit of alcohol. The Welsh Government is planning to implement the same lowest price next summer.