Oldham high in league of binge-drinking shame

Reporter: Marina Berry
Date published: 18 December 2008

THE North-West tops a league table of places most affected by excessive drinking, according to a report out today.

Oldham figures high on the roll of shame, and has been named as the 10th worst area in the country for alcohol-related harm.

Manchester is worst affected across a range of factors — such as hospital admissions caused by drinking, premature deaths and crimes related to alcohol.

Oldham and neighbouring Tameside and Rochdale are all in the 10 areas most affected, revealed by shock figures, from the Centre for Public Health.

Oldham also has some of the biggest drinkers, with 7 per cent of men over 16 drinking more than 50 units of alcohol a week — 35 units for females.

That is marginally fewer than Manchester, at 9 per cent, and Liverpool and Salford, both at 8 per cent.

Debbie Malone, associate director of public health for NHS Oldham, admitted the situation in the borough mirrored the national picture of an increase in alcohol-related illnesses and death, and said it was working with other organisations in the borough to encourage sensible drinking.

NHS Oldham expects to get £150,000 in the New Year to tackle alcohol-related problems and, from April, will run a pilot project with the Royal Oldham Hospital’s casualty department in a bid to improve support and treatment for people with problems.

Also from April, every Oldham GP will have the option to screen new patients to find out how much they drink and to offer support if necessary or pass them on to agencies which can provide treatment.

Across the nation, there were 800,000 hospital admissions linked to alcohol in 2006/7 — 9 per cent up on the previous year, which amounts to an extra 174 a day.

And there has been a constant annual 5 per cent rise over five years in the number of children and under-18s being admitted to hospital because of alcohol —to nearly 8,000 in 2006/07 — with the biggest increases in the more rural and isolated areas.

The report says the level of hospital admissions continues to climb, while deaths from chronic liver disease increased last year by 7 per cent for women, and 5 per cent for men.

Claims for incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance due to alcoholism remained unchanged, at around 41,000 (November 2007), while alcohol-related road deaths were down 10 per cent from 2003, to 2,900 in 2007.

Areas least affected by alcohol were mainly in the South-East and Eastern regions of the country.

Dr Karen Tocque, director of science and strategy for the North-West Public Health Observatory, which carried out the study, said: “No area of England can escape the fact that alcohol is having some negative influence on their residents.”

And Professor Mark Bellis, director of the observatory, warned both daily and weekend binge drinking damages health, and further problems were in store for society unless the causes, such as cheap alcohol and lack of recognition that alcohol is a dangerous drug, continued to be ignored.