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Alcohol related illness costs NHS £3 billion per year

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 Alcohol related illness costs NHS £3 billion per year

The NHS is spending £3 billion a year on treating patients with alcohol related illnesses, according to new figures.

Treating alcohol related sickness and injuries accounts for 3 per cent of the entire NHS budget, Oxford University researchers found.

The annual cost – which is a significant increase on previous estimates – is enough to cover more than 170,000 kidney transplants, or the entire cost of the breast cancer drug Herceptin for the next 30 years.

According to researchers, the bill for treating cirrhosis of the liver, caused by heavy drinking, comes to around £374 million a year alone.

Treating the victims of alcohol related car crashes adds a further £300 million to the total bill.

To gauge the financial impact on the NHS, a team of experts at Oxford University’s department of public health analysed all previous studies on alcohol-related illness from 1998 onwards.

The results, published in the Journal of Public Health, were used to estimate the death and sickness toll from alcohol in 2005.

In a report on the findings researchers said: “Alcohol consumption is a considerable public health burden in the UK, accounting for five per cent of all deaths in 2005.

“The estimated direct cost to the NHS was £3billion. The number of people reporting consumption of harmful levels of alcohol is increasing.

“Around a third of men and a fifth of women report drinking over the weekly recommendations.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Alcohol is one of the most challenging public health issues we face. We are working harder than ever to reduce alcohol related hospital admissions, and to help those who regularly drink too much or are dependent on alcohol.

“There are a number of public health campaigns to help people understand Government guidelines around drinking alcohol. Ongoing and future campaigns will also help people to live more healthily.

“Government is consulting on a draft mandatory code for alcohol retailing, which should restrict irresponsible ways of promoting alcohol and ensure information on alcohol units and Government guidelines is widely available.”

The report also concluded that alcohol was directly responsible for a total of 26,600 deaths in England and Wales in 2005, mostly in men.

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