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The Cost of Alcohol Abuse in Leeds

Posted in Alcoholism

Growing problems with alcohol abuse in Leeds are costing the city more than £275m a year. Members of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the city’s hospitals, attended the council’s health scrutiny board meeting, and were told that anti-social behavior, crime, alcohol-related health problems, and a loss of productivity all contributed to the hefty bill.

The UK’s Guardian reports that the alcohol-related costs to the city’s NHS alone is around the £23m mark, with an estimated half the number of visitors to A&E at the weekend attending because of alcohol-induced problems such as falls.

"Alcohol is a major issue in our A&E departments at both Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s – the weekends and out of hours are particularly bad,” said Kevin Reynard of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

"I don’t think we ever go through the working week without having to tell the parents of a young person that their son or daughter has died as a result of an incident involving alcohol. When I first started out as a junior doctor, cirrhosis of the liver was almost unheard of among people in their 20s, now it’s commonplace."

Anna Di Bassio, an A&E matron, added: "Friday and Saturday nights are challenging to say the least. There is disruption to the department. Staff trying to get on with their work can be severely disrupted."

Counselors also heard from NHS Leeds about the social issues coming from alcohol misuse, including a rise in the number of domestic violence cases. They were also told of problems with drunk or rowdy behavior, violent crime such as assaults, increasing hospital admissions, concerns over the safety of children, and that deprived areas like Armley and Middleton had twice as many people needing NHS support than in more affluent communities.

Data provided by the NHS showed Leeds was “significantly worse” than the national average when it comes to deaths from alcoholic liver disease, alcohol-related admissions in men, binge drinking, and benefit claimants whose main reason for claiming was alcoholism.

Counselors heard of a number of initiatives and support programs currently being run in Leeds to help alleviate these issues. They also spoke of their frustration over supermarkets selling cheap alcohol and the lack of a statutory minimum price for alcohol.

Meeting chairman counselor Mark Dobson said: "We’ve heard some stark messages today—there are clearly major issues to be tackled in Leeds."

The reports were the third session of the scrutiny board’s ongoing inquiry aimed at considering the role of the council and its partners in dealing with public health—the other issues being considered by the board are improving sexual health, reversing the rise in obesity, and reducing the level of smoking.