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Medical emergencies caused by alcohol-related liver disease in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG rise

Scarborough Hospital
Scarborough Hospital

Accident and Emergencies teams at Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group treated 36 patients for alcohol-related liver disease last year, according to NHS figures.

That’s a rate of 31 for every 100,000 people registered in the area, 13% up from five years ago.

In the period from April 2012 to March 2013, emergency services treated 31 patients with liver disease in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG.

The rate for the whole of England is 26 for every 100,000 people but it ranges from about three in Tower Hamlets to 82 in South Sefton.

Professor Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology, said the statistics for England are “horrifying” and proposed setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb drinking.

“Liver disease is the only exception to the improvement over the past years in life expectancy for chronic disorders such as strokes, heart disease and many cancers,” he said.

“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.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to pass a minimum alcohol pricing but he was pressed by the drinks industry and nothing changed.”

Scotland adopted this measure in May, setting a 50 pence minimum price per unit of alcohol. Certain states of the USA, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan have implemented similar policies over the last years.

Judi Rhys, CEO of the British Liver trust, called on GPs to improve their awareness of the risk of factors.

She said: “Liver disease is a silent killer because there are often no obvious symptoms in the early stages.

“We know that at the moment three quarters of people are diagnosed in a hospital setting when the condition is quite advanced. General Practitioners need to understand how to interpret the results of blood tests and clear pathways need to be commissioned so that they know who to refer and how to refer.

“There has also been an exponential increase in the supply of low price alcohol to the public with a growing range of cheap drink promotions in shops. More people drink at home and more people drink wine and spirits which have a much higher alcohol content.

“A common myth is that you have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver. The term alcoholic is misleading as alcohol dependency is a spectrum and more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.”

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

The NHS warns alcohol-related liver disease doesn’t usually cause any symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged. When that happens symptoms can include feeling sick, weight loss, loss of appetite and yellowing of the eyes and skin.