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Welcome to SHAAP’s (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) weekly media monitoring service.

11 February 2016
 

#MUPsaveslives

 

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This briefing aims to provide a ‘snap shot’ of latest news on alcohol and health policy. The inclusion of an article in the briefing should not imply that SHAAP approves or condones the content.

SHAAP provides a coordinated, coherent and authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of the people in Scotland. SHAAP was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, through their Scottish Intercollegiate Group (SIGA) and is governed by an Executive Committee made up of members of the Royal Colleges.

Health professionals call for alcohol-only checkouts in shops

Scotland should introduce alcohol-only check-outs and ban drinks advertising outside of licensed premises, according to health professionals.

The measures are among 20 recommendations on the price, availability and marketing of alcohol made by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).

The organisation, which was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, has written to all MSPs setting out its manifesto in the run-up to May's Holyrood election.

It points out Scotland has one of the highest liver cirrhosis mortality rates in western Europe, with alcohol death rates almost twice the level they were in the early 1980s.

The manifesto calls for a national licensing authority to regulate the number, type and opening hours of alcohol outlets as well as a legal requirement for alcohol-only check-outs in all licensed shops.

SHAAP wants the Scottish Government to seek devolution of powers from Westminster over all alcohol advertising and set up an independent regulatory body to control it.

A target date should be set for the prohibition of all alcohol advertising except in licensed premises, with an immediate ban in sports-related settings, including sponsorship. All alcoholic products should also be labelled with ingredients, calorie counts and health risks, it added.

SHAAP said Scottish Government plans for minimum unit pricing, currently subject to legal challenge, should be implemented "as soon as possible" while Scottish ministers should also campaign for the reintroduction of the UK alcohol duty escalator and support a UK review of alcohol duty rates.

Director Eric Carlin said: "After several years of welcome reductions in alcohol-related hospitalisations and harms, these are both on the increase again.

"It is vital that alcohol policy in Scotland should be aligned to the WHO's (World Health Organisation) ten 'Best Buy' recommendations, with a specific focus on increasing the price of the cheapest, most harmful products and taking action to restrict the availability and marketing of alcohol."

Chair Dr Peter Rice added: "There has been much good work in Scotland in recent years in prevention and in helping individuals and families, but much remains to be done.

"Some of this work will be to progress existing policies, in particular minimum unit price, which has been delayed by the actions of global alcohol producers.

"There are other new actions, for instance, on licensing and the way alcohol is sold, which we are keen to see introduced."

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: "We've taken considerable action to reduce alcohol harm through our Alcohol Framework, including the quantity discount ban, a ban on irresponsible promotions, a lower drink drive limit, improved substance misuse education and our nationwide alcohol brief intervention programme. This was recognised in the recent Four Nations report, which recognised Scotland as leading the way in the UK.

"But while there are around 22 people a week dying in Scotland because of alcohol then there is absolutely no room for complacency. We will introduce the next phase of our Alcohol Framework later this year which will build on the progress so far.

"Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse and as such we remain committed to introducing minimum unit pricing."

Source: STV news, 11th February
 

Alcohol: Johnstone welcomes SHAAP recommendations

Responding to the publication by SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) of its ‘Top Twenty’ recommendations for action on alcohol, Alison Johnstone, Health and Wellbeing spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

“The recommendations from SHAAP are welcome and I’m confident that health campaigners will be encouraged by the Scottish Greens manifesto when it is published in the coming weeks. As well as supporting Minimum Unit Pricing we have consistently questioned how healthy it is that a handful of big businesses - whose motives are all about profit - control our drinks industry.

“I’d also point to the comments of Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health, who told the Scottish Greens conference in Glasgow that the health problems we see in Scotland, such as those from alcohol, are the result of poverty and inequality. By creating jobs, improving housing and protecting public services, we can prevent poor health and premature deaths.”

Source: Scottish Green Party, 11th February
 

Scotland revealed as UK country with most alcohol-related deaths

More alcohol-related deaths occur in Scotland than in any other part of the UK, according to new figures.

Of the 8,697 deaths linked to alcohol in the UK in 2014, 65 per cent of those were among males, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The total in the UK has fallen, but remains higher than figures seen 20 years ago. In 2008, such deaths peaked at 15.8 per 100,000 population, dropping to 14.3 in 2014. However, this compares with 9.1 in 1994 when records began.

Incidents linked to drink made up 31.2 deaths per 100,000 for males in Scotland, compared with 20.3 in Northern Ireland, 19.9 in Wales, and 18.1 in England.

Those aged between 55 to 64-years-old were most likely to die due to alcohol, breaking down to 47.6 deaths per 100,000 for males aged between 60 to 64, and 22.1 in women between 55 to 59-years-old.

The figures echo a recent study published in the 'British Medical Journal' which showed that over-50s are most likely to drink to harmful levels.

Scotland had the highest alcohol-related death rate – but also saw the fastest decrease in its rate since a peak in the 2000s.

Deaths were also significantly higher in the north of England than the south.

Meanwhile, England and Wales were the only UK countries which saw a dramatic spike in alcohol-related deaths in females in the two decades after 1994.

The figures are based on deaths registered in each calendar year, rather than those occurring each year.

Researchers classed deaths as alcohol-related if they were directly due to consumption, including chronic conditions such as liver disease and cirrhosis, as well as acute conditions. Incidents such as road traffic accidents and deaths connected to diseases partially linked to alcohol – such as mouth and liver cancer - were not included.

Prof Kevin Fenton, the director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Alcohol harms individuals, families and communities and it’s crucial that, alongside effective local interventions and treatment for those that need it, we look more widely at what affects drinking behaviour in this country, such as marketing and pricing.

“Public Health England will soon be providing a report to government on how we can reduce the harms caused by alcohol.”

Tom Smith, director of campaigns at charity Alcohol Concern, said: “These latest figures show that alcohol-related deaths are back on the rise and have almost doubled in the last 20 years.

“The figures also highlight the dangers of middle-aged drinking, with the highest number of alcohol-related deaths among 55 to 64-year-olds.

“We continue to face extremely high levels of health harms caused by alcohol, and it continues to be the leading risk factor for deaths among men and women aged between 15 and 49 years in the UK.

“Unless we start taking this seriously and acknowledge the health risks that too much alcohol can cause the situation will only get worse.”

Source: the Independent, 8th February
 

MSPs reject move to ban alcohol ads near schools

MSPs have voted down a members bill which would have resulted in a ban on alcohol advertising within 200 metres (656ft) of schools.

Richard Simpson also wanted licensed shops in problem areas to mark cans and bottles so they could be traced.

He told MSPs there was a problem with "proxy" purchasing for teenagers.

However, ministers argued that the issue could be better dealt with through the government's alcohol misuse strategy.

When the members bill was scrutinised at committee stage, BMA Scotland expressed concerns about some aspects of it but it supported the section aimed at banning alcohol advertising around schools.

Figures analysed specially for the Scottish government in 2009 estimated that Scotland had the eighth highest level of alcohol consumption in the world.

The World Health Organisation has linked alcohol to more than 60 types of disease, disability and injury.

Source: BBC News, 4th February
 

Tennent's lager to become first alcohol product in the UK to display calorie information on its packaging

Tennent's lager is to become the first alcohol product in the UK to display calorie information on its packaging.

Cans and bottles will carry the information from March in a move to 'educate drinkers and promote the responsible consumption of alcohol'.

Drip mats in pubs and clubs will also display the information that a 500ml can of Tennent's lager contains 152 calories.

The information also states 100ml of Tennent's typically contains 30 calories. There are 568ml in a pint, equivalent to around 170 calories.

Brewers Tennent Caledonian said it is the first alcohol product in the UK & Ireland to print clear nutritional information on its cans and bottles.

Managing director Alastair Campbell said: 'As a responsible producer of alcohol and proud owner of brands that are trusted and enjoyed by drinkers across Scotland, we wanted to further extend our commitment to promote the responsible consumption of alcohol.

'We are introducing calorie information onto our cans and bottles to ensure people can make an informed decision.'

He continued: 'There is increasing interest among consumers around the nutritional content of the food and drink that they consume.

'We feel that it is a natural next step to include calorie information on our cans and bottles to sit alongside the responsible drinking messaging and number of alcohol units already displayed.'

In Scotland, nearly one in four men and around one in six women drink at harmful or hazardous levels, according to Alcohol Focus Scotland.

There were 1,152 alcohol-related deaths in 2014 and 35,059 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2014/15.

Public health minister Maureen Watt said the Scottish Government supports improved alcohol product labelling.

'Many people are unaware of the calorie content of alcoholic drinks, so this is an important step forward in informing consumers and, as such, we are happy to support Tennent's commitment today,' she said.

'Raising awareness on alcohol labels is an important tool to allow consumers to make informed, positive lifestyle choices, change their drinking habits and drink more responsibly.'

Tennent's owner C&C Group also manufactures Bulmers and Magners cider, and plans to add nutritional information to other products over the next year.

Earlier this year local councils in England demanded drink manufacturers put calorie information on beer and wine bottles.

They warned that putting on weight from drinking is less well known than other alcohol risks, so calorie content should be highlighted to tackle obesity.

Local authorities claim five pints of beer with a strength of 4 per cent – roughly the alcohol level of ordinary bitter – is equivalent to eating more than three hamburgers, and provides calories that would take 90 minutes’ running to burn off.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: ‘While the long-term health effects of drinking, such as liver and heart damage and increased risk of cancer, are relatively well-known, the huge number of hidden calories contained in alcohol is not.’

At the beginning of this year, Britain's Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies warned just one alcoholic drink a day could put people at risk of cancer and other illnesses later in life.

In the biggest shake-up of alcohol advice in 30 years, Britons were told there is no safe level of drinking booze.

The move follows new evidence that even small amounts greatly increase the risk of cancer.

Source: The Daily Mail, 10th February
 

Drink drive limit could be cut by third, ministers say

The drink-driving limit in England and Wales may be lowered to make it illegal to drive after one pint of lager or a small glass of wine, the Goverment has indicated.

Ministers said they could follow the example of Scotland, where the drink drive limit was lowered in 2014 from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, if there is "robust evidence" that it will save lives.

The new limit would be equivalent to a pint of beer or large glass of wine for a man and half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine for a woman.

Doctors and road safety experts have been calling for England to follow suit amid concerns that the levels in this country are now some of the highest in Europe.

The Government has previously said that the current drink driving limit in England and Wales "strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom".

But Andrew Jones, a transport minister, said in response to a parliamentary question that he will meet with his Scottish counterpart to discuss the impact of lowering the limit.

He said: "I am intending to discuss with the Scottish Minister about the experience of the lower limit in Scotland and about the timescales to get access to robust evidence of the road safety impact.

"It is important to base our decisions on evidence and the Scottish experience will be crucial to that before we consider any possible changes to the limits in England and Wales.

"This Government's current position however remains to focus resources on enforcing against the most serious offenders."

The current 80mg limit in England and Wales is one of the highest in Europe, while several EU nations have banned drinking while driving entirely.

It is equivalent to one and a half small glasses of average strength wine or one and a half pints of normal strength beer.

Drink driving led to 240 fatalities and 1,080 serious injuries in 2014, the most recent figures available.

The new limit in Scotland came into force in December 2014. Police Scotland said that in the nine months after the drink drive limit was introduced the number of offences fell by 12.5 per cent.

There is also evidence it has changed social attitudes. In December a survey suggested that 82 per cent of Scots now believe that drinking any alcohol before driving is unacceptable.

An analysis by the RAC Foundation said that lowering the limit would have saved 25 lives last year and prevented 95 people being seriously injured.

Doctors and police chiefs have have been calling for England to lower the drink drive limit, while polls have suggested that three quarters of the public back a lower limit.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Ministers in Westminster are right to remain open minded about drink-drive limits and ready to assess evidence from north of the border.

“It would be a poor argument to say cut the drink-drive limit just because others have done it but there is now plenty of data to suggest a change would have a marked improvement in road safety terms.

“Despite rapid traffic growth the number of people killed in drink-drive accidents has fallen dramatically over time. But the weight of evidence is that we could do more.

“Drink-drive policy has not moved on for half a century. But the momentum now seems to be in favour of change. This is not about following the crowd but following the evidence.”

Edmund King, the president of the AA, said that lowering the limit would require motorists to be more aware of the limit the morning after an evening of drinking.

A majority of AA members support a lower limit and it seems a sensible step to bring us into line with Scotland and the majority of European counltries.

"However, it would probably be more effective for the police to target hard-core offenders who are way over the current limit as they are involved in the most deaths and injuries on the road.

"With a lower limit, drivers will also have to be aware of being over the limit the morning after. Our research shows that almost 20 per cent of drivers have driven the morning after when they believed they could be over the limit."

Mr Jones later attempted to clarify his comments. He said: "Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world because we crack down on those who break the law, and the government believes rigorous enforcement and serious penalties for drink drivers are a more effective deterrent than changing the drink driving limit.

“We continue to look at the best ways to improve road safety but the drink driving limit for England and Wales strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom. By having our limit, we are not criminalising those who drink a small amount a long time before driving, but our advice remains unchanged: don’t take the risk by driving after you have had a drink”.

Source: the Telegraph, 9th February

 

Possible ban on supermarket special offers on alcohol

Jersey's government have changed proposals for a new Liquor Licensing Law, including plans to ban promotional prices for alcohol in supermarkets.

Six areas are being looked at, they are:

  • Licensing objectives: Applications for liquor licenses will be considered on factors including crime and disorder reduction, securing public safety, presentation of public nuisance, protection of children and public health improvements.
  • A replacement for the Licensing Authority: The licensing process will be transparent in terms of cost and process. It should also be faster without increasing costs, but it will be funded by the industry.
  • The Alcohol and Licensing Policy Group: Alcohol licensing policy decisions would be transparent and accountable to a new government appointed body.
  • Alcohol price control: A new policy would mean banning price promotions on alcohol in licensed premises and supermarkets.
  • Personal licenses: Personal licenses will not be introduced.
  • The fee system: License fees will increase, as they have not changed for seven years.

Islanders are being invited to give their opinion on the potential changes.

The proposals are part of the island's alcohol strategy.

The new law is a key component of the alcohol strategy, which is now moving forward quickly with support across government.We hope that stakeholders and the public will respond with their views.

– Senator Paul Routier, Assistant Chief Minister

Source: ITV News, 5th February
 

Boozy pensioners risk 'alcoholic dementia' with the damage from drink rivalling Alzheimer's

Studies have shown that baby boomers are the heaviest drinkers and it's leaving thousands hospitalised every year with mental disorders.

As we live longer, age-related maladies loom large unless we adjust our lifestyles and try to stay healthy into old age. What we fear most is declining brain function and the spectre of Alzheimer’s .

But it’s now emerging that alcoholic brain damage is catching up with ­Alzheimer’s because oldies are drinking more and more.

“Alcohol-related memory problems are grossly under-reported and mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Tony Rao, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, South London.

“Ten years ago, I would have been treating no more than three people at any one time for alcohol-related brain damage. Now there are at least 10 patients suffering in the service I am working in.”

Most of his patients were thought to have either depression or Alzheimer’s. Then they admitted to heavy drinking and a diagnosis of alcohol-related brain damage followed. Most were in their 70s, but recently more people are in their mid- to late-60s.

Baby boomers, those aged 51-70, are more likely to drink every day, often at home, than any other age group. A recent Health Survey for England found the heaviest drinkers are in late middle age or older.

Among men, a third of 65- to 74-year-olds are over the limit of 21 units a week, and nearly one in 10 are drinking more than 50 units.

Women aged 55 to 64 are the heaviest female drinkers. A fifth of them drink more than the recommended 14 units a week, while one in 20 consume more than 35 units.

These habits take a toll. More older people are hospitalised every year for mental disorders related to alcohol (11,373) than for alcohol-related liver disease (9,890). This increase is far greater than the growth in the elderly population.

The bottom line is that this bingeing behaviour is leading to more over-60s being hospitalised for alcoholic brain damage, a condition known as Korsakoff syndrome, which is similar to dementia.

You get profound memory loss caused by long-term heavy drinking – and it’s irreversible. Although the numbers are small at the moment, they are trending sharply upwards.

“Alcohol consumption among older people is frequently overlooked and under-addressed,” said Tom Smith, head of policy at the charity Alcohol Concern.

“As a consequence, we are seeing alcohol-related harm rocket among this age group – not only physical, but mental and behavioural.

“As people live longer there is a growing need for targeted strategies to tackle excessive drinking in older age.”

Source: Daily Mirror, 8th February
 

Drinking habits study reveals teenagers with lowest levels of parental control 'heaviest drinkers'

A study of adolescents' drinking habits has found the heaviest consumers of alcohol were teenagers under the lowest levels of parental control.

The biggest drinkers among the 11 to 17-year-olds were also the most secretive about their use of alcohol.

Researchers from Glasgow University and Queen's University Belfast analysed data from 4,937 young people between 2000 and 2011.

The study suggests that the determining factor in alcohol use is not the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control exercised by parents.

Dr Mark McCann, from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at Glasgow University, said: "Our results suggest the role of parents in determining alcohol behaviour is consistently important.

"We are hypothesising that while emotional support and closeness are important for ensuring mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home such as peer influences and social media."

Dr McCann said all families need to be more aware of alcohol's long-term influence on physical and mental health.

He said: "Given that adolescence is often a critical period for the beginning of alcohol use, and that alcohol harms are not confined to children from so-called 'problem' families, support for adolescent parenting - rather than alcohol awareness for parents - may be a more beneficial target for public policy aimed at young people's health behaviour."

The paper, titled Assessing elements of a family approach to reduce adolescent drinking frequency, is published in the journal Addiction.

 Source: Herald Scotland, 10th February
 

Gut bacteria may influence alcoholics' liver damage

Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is changing, though, evidently, slowly. Despite increased awareness of the harm caused, the latest evaluation of Scotland’s alcohol strategy suggests public knowledge and attitudes around alcohol haven’t really budged in the last ten years.

The latest effort came a few weeks ago as chief medical officers across the UK unveiled new guidelines advising men and women to consume no more than 14 units in a given week, a change brought about by fresh evidence of the link between alcohol and cancer.

“Actually, it doesn’t matter what you set it at,” says Dr Richard Cooke, senior lecturer in health psychology at Aston University. “If you’re going to use units, nobody knows what a unit is. Alcohol researchers know what a unit is, scientists know what a unit is, the general public, they’ve no idea what a unit is – they don’t use units to think about their drinking.”

Awareness of units is in fact high, according to work by Stirling and Sheffield universities, though the ability to measure and count intake is poor. That stems from a myriad of factors, including an increase in the strength of most wines plus a greater variety of beers and ciders now on offer.

The fact more drinking now takes place at home also complicates the picture. Almost three-quarters of alcohol sold in Scotland in 2014 was via off-sales, the highest market share since recording began two decades earlier. “We’re a nation of take-home drinkers,” remarks Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

December’s European Court of Justice ruling on minimum unit pricing was claimed as a victory by both sides in the protracted legal wrangle. Irrespective of which side the Court of Session now comes down on, another legal battle looms at the UK Supreme Court.

“At a UK level, we need to be making the case – and the Scottish Government needs to be making the case – for using taxation to reduce harm,” says Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS). “This would be complimentary to minimum unit pricing. Unfortunately, we’ve been going backwards at UK level on that.”

Pricing is not the only avenue campaigners are keen to pursue, though. AFS, for instance, would like to see “stronger restrictions” on sport sponsorship and advertising. Addressing the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh last October, the First Minister made a point of stressing the Scottish Government’s support for a 9pm watershed when it comes to broadcast advertising.

This, however, as Nicola Sturgeon reminded observers, was not within her gift, broadcasting being reserved to Westminster. “Even if broadcast media is reserved to Westminster there are other things that the Scottish Government can do to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising that would enable us to begin moving in the right direction,” counters Douglas.

Indeed, as ministers prepare to embark on a ‘refresh’ of the 2009 strategy, the AFS chief executive – who was responsible for the development and implementation of the original blueprint in her former role as head of alcohol policy and delivery within government – intimates a desire to see potentially controversial proposals, such as a social responsibility levy and alcohol-only checkouts, which the Scottish Government has previously considered only to then shelve, explored again. Even putting minimum unit pricing to one side, though, ministers have not necessarily shied away from potential controversies.

The change in the legal drink-drive limit just over a year ago saw Scotland adopt the lowest threshold in the UK, albeit Northern Ireland will soon go further after legislation was passed last month. Police figures published in the last fortnight showed the number of people found to be above the drink-drive limit between December 3 and January 1 rose almost a third on the previous year. That as an SLTA survey of 600 businesses found 40 per cent of trade in rural areas were down or showed no growth over the festive period.

“We’re collateral damage in this idea that nobody should have one drink, which is utter nonsense,” says Waterson, citing that of the 459 drivers caught, only 19 were found to be between the old and new limit. “If we had a penalty system based around a points system then it would give a bit of flexibility. It’s rather like saying to somebody, ‘you can’t drive over 30mph in a 30 limit and if you drive at 35mph we’re going to give you a 20-year criminal record’. It’s nonsense.”

It is no secret that relations between police and parts of the licensed trade had soured in the early days of a single force amid disquiet over its enforcement strategy. Talks between Police Scotland and trade reps from across the country took place last June, just weeks after Glasgow Licensing Board controversially imposed a midnight closing time on The Arches venue following police complaints about drug and alcohol incidents.

Agreement on formal terms of reference for a national licensing trade forum is expected later this month, bringing police and different parts of the trade together on a regular basis. “Of course, the environment of licensing across Scotland differs for lots of reasons,” says Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams, who oversees the force’s national licensing and violence reduction unit.

“But we want to make sure that the professional approach we take is a consistent one and the licensed trade associations know what to expect from us and can have a confidence in the service that we deliver so that there are no surprises.”

A national database for licensing – known as Innkeeper – is also scheduled to go live within the next few weeks. “It records all aspects of a visit to allow us to ensure that we have a catalogue of information,” says Williams. “When people apply for relicensing, licensing extensions or extraordinary licenses for particular events, we’re [then] able to go back and properly evidence our support – or otherwise – based on our experience of dealing with that premises, shop or whatever it may be, in the visits we’ve made.”

Williams, who was local police commander of the Edinburgh City Division until his promotion to ACC seven weeks ago, had – along with other public agencies – been vocal previously in his belief that the capital had an overprovision of licensed premises. “There are some examples of licensing boards that do work very effectively, are very proactive and absolutely work to the licensing objectives that they’ve set. And there are others that don’t do it so well,” he says.

“The overarching principles of licensing in Scotland are about public safety and wellbeing and managing that. And I sometimes am concerned that the economic vitality of an area, or a city even – and I reflect back to my experience in Edinburgh – is always prioritised over public safety. There has to be a balance struck between the two.”

Source: Holyrood Magazine, 4th February 
 

Alcohol-related liver problems to be tackled by specialist 'care-teams' in hospitals

Deaths from liver disease have more the doubled in the past two decades, says the Welsh Government.

Specialist “alcohol care teams” are being set up in each of Wales’ health boards to tackle a sharp increase in deaths caused by liver disease, it has been revealed.

Deaths from liver disease have more than doubled in the past 20 years largely due to the rise in obesity, alcohol misuse and blood-borne viral hepatitis.

As part of a £2.4m investment by the Welsh Government to tackle the issue over the next three years, £1m will be invested in so-called alcohol care teams across Wales.

Aim is to reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions

The teams will be based in secondary care settings, such as hospitals, and will deal specifically with alcohol-related admissions.

They will also be responsible for reducing re-admissions to hospital so demand on the emergency services is eased.

In addition, £300,000 will be invested in a new campaign on liver health and preventing liver disease to further alleviate demand.

Working with existing awareness campaigns on viral hepatitis, alcohol abuse and obesity, the new campaign will focus on raising public awareness of the risks caused by liver disease.

Take pressure off other staff

Andrew Misell, director of Alcohol Concern Cymru, said: “Extra action to reduce the strain that alcohol-related illnesses place on our health service is very welcome indeed.

“There’s good evidence that alcohol specialists working in the NHS can take a lot of the pressure off other staff.

“Of course, this is dealing with symptoms of the problem, and it needs to sit in the context of measures such as minimum pricing, which can reduce excessive drinking across the population.”

Deupty Health Minister Vaughan Gething said liver disease caused by obesity, alcohol misuse and blood borne viral hepatitis is almost entirely preventable.

Alcohol biggest cause of liver disease

He added: “The number of people suffering liver disease in Wales is increasing. We know some of it is unavoidable, but much is a result of how we live our lives – alcohol continues to be the biggest cause of liver disease in Wales.

“Earlier this year, I published our liver disease delivery plan, which sets out how the Welsh NHS aims to stop the rise in liver disease and deaths, give patients more support, improve the quality of services, improve specialist knowledge in liver disease throughout the health service, and encourage patients to take responsibility for their health and care.

“The new measures I’m announcing focus on education, early intervention and prevention, and ensuring we provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

“Our NHS will continue to play its part in treating those who need it but all of us have to take responsibility for the health consequences of our lifestyle choices.”

The measures will support the delivery of the Welsh Government’s Together for Health - Liver Disease Delivery Plan.

The measures in full

  • £300,000 to improve identification, testing and referral of those with early stage liver disease;
  • £200,000 to establish a dedicated national leadership roles to work across health boards on the quality of liver services;
  • £200,000 to develop new services, more efficient treatment pathways and improve standards of care;
  • £150,000 to match-fund industry partnership projects to support the delivery plan;
  • £150,000 will be invested to support the development of specialised services such as regional hepatocellular carcinoma services and national transplant pathways to improve liver transplantation rates.
  • £1m to set up Alcohol Care Teams
  • £300,000 to launch new campaign on liver health and preventing liver disease

Source: Wales Online, 6th February

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