The Office for National Statistics had revealed that more people than ever before lost their lives to alcohol in the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2020, there were 8,974 deaths (14.0 per 100,000 people) from alcohol-specific causes, a staggering 18.6% increase compared with 2019 and the highest year-on-year increase since records began.
The figure is unsurprising when today’s report by Public Health England reveals that back in 2019–2020, the NHS was crippled with nearly one million alcohol-related hospital admissions, a 4% rise on 2018–2019.
Alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2019–2020 represented 5.7% of all hospital admissions.
Almost three-quarters of all people admitted into the hospital because of alcohol were male (73%), which comes as no surprise to learn that twice as many men as women died from alcohol in 2020.
Leading alcohol addiction treatment experts UKAT have analysed the recent PHE and ONS data, showing that rising regional hospital admissions in 2019 didn’t prevent increasing alcohol death rates in 2020.
Nuno Albuquerque, Consultant Treatment Lead for the UK Addiction Treatment Group, comments: ‘What we would have hoped to have seen is that as more people are admitted into hospital with alcohol-related conditions, they would have received both short-term and long-term medical and therapeutic help and support that would hopefully prevent their alcoholism from worsening.’
‘What we’re seeing is that hasn’t necessarily been the case for most regions across the country. More people lost their lives to alcohol even though they’d not long engaged with the NHS. This suggests to us that sometimes, a more powerful intervention style of treatment is needed.’
UKAT’s analysis of today’s Public Health England data shows that in the West Midlands, in 2019–2020, 112,560 people were admitted into hospitals with alcohol-related conditions, 5% more than the previous year. Sadly, the 2020 alcohol-specific death toll rose from 12.1 to 16.1 deaths per 100,000 people, an annual increase of 33.1%.
Similarly, in the South West, in 2019–2020, 99,910 people were admitted to hospitals with alcohol-related conditions, 5% more than the previous year. However, in 2020, the region’s alcohol-specific mortality rate rose from 8.7 to 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people, increasing 32.2%.
The North West saw 149,350 people seek help from the NHS in 2019–2020, up from 146,020 the previous year, but this still led to a stark rise in alcohol-specific mortality, from 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 to 17.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, an increase of 19.4%.
The alcohol-specific death toll in the North West is despite the region prescribing the most amount of prescription drugs to combat alcoholism in the country, dispensing 33,000 items in 2019–2020, including Acamprosate Calcium, a medication that is used for the maintenance of abstinence of alcoholism, but according to UKAT, is supposed to used in conjunction with counselling and therapeutic support for it to be as effective as possible.
Nuno Albuquerque continues: ‘Data from Public Health England suggests that alcohol consumption rose during 2020 which will undoubtedly lead to rising hospital admissions and ultimately, loss of life. The NHS was floored by treating those with the virus in 2020, which meant that other health conditions were left to worsen.’
‘We urge the Government to stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to this country’s alcohol crisis. It is a crisis, and it is a pandemic within a pandemic. Bring back protected budgets for substance misuse treatment services so that we can relieve the NHS and support those who have been ignored over the last couple of years.’
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