Battle against the booze

DOCTORS in the west of Scotland have warned a “significant proportion” of adults are risking alcohol-related health problems.

According to a new study Scottish GP surgeries see around 5,500 patients a day where alcohol had contributed to their ill health.

The British Medical Association Scotland survey claimed GPs and practice nurses spend more than 600 hours every working day talking to patients with illnesses triggered or exacerbated by their drinking habits.

This equates to around 1.4 million consultations a year, costing the NHS in excess of £28 million.

Dr Alan McDevitt, deputy chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “Those who suffer from alcohol-related health problems are not just alcoholics or heavy binge drinkers.

“By regularly drinking over and above recommended limits, a significant proportion of the adult population is at risk of experiencing health problems that are linked to the alcohol they consume, whether it is high blood pressure, breast cancer or even domestic abuse”.

But statistics from the NHS suggest the number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons has gone down in recent years.

These kind of admissions peaked in 2007/8 when they reached 788 per 100,000 of the population.

In 2008/09 the number declined to 763 with the provisional figure for 2009/10 709 per 100,000 people.

Alcohol-related deaths peaked in 2006 when deaths reached 1,546.

But most recent figures for 2009 show these have gone down to 1,282.

Statistician Professor Sheila Bird, from the Medical Research Council’s Biostatistics Unit, said: “Someone might see a doctor now because of the acute affects of alcohol, such as hangover or an injury sustained while drunk, but that could herald a future chronic illness caused by alcohol.

“Therefore the numbers of inpatients and deaths now could be a reflection of attitudes to alcohol in the 80s and 90s.

“Chronic illnesses can happen in future if acute alcohol problems aren’t sorted out now”.

The BMA Scotland study was based on a sample of 31 of the 1,009 GP practises across the country.

The study was published just days after an unofficial royal wedding party in Kelvingrove park that ended in a riot, with police chiefs blaming “drunken louts”.

Chief constable Stephen House said: “On a day when the whole country was bathed in sunshine and united in celebration a group of drunken louts brought violence to our city and shame to our country.

“My officers faced a level of abuse which is simply not on. The sight of a police officer with blood streaming from his head is totally unacceptable.

“I have said this over and over again. Something needs to be done about our relationship with alcohol.

“Whoever forms the next government must do something about it. We’ve talked about action for too long. We cannot go on like this”.