A DOCTOR today spoke of the huge strain which alcohol abuse is putting on the health service.
Sunderland Royal Hospital, where Dr Kate Lambert is an emergency consultant, deals with 6,000 alcohol-related attendances each year.
Dr Lambert says the staggering numbers can be partly attributed to the fact that drinking at an early age, and drinking heavily, have become socially normal and acceptable.
She is now backing a campaign launched this week by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, calling on the Government to prevent alcohol advertising reaching children.
Research by Balance shows that alcohol adverts encourage children and young people to drink early and consume in greater quantities.
Dr Lambert sees the impact that alcohol has on others on a daily basis in her role.
She says: “I’ve worked in hospitals and emergency departments for more than 20 years and in that time the number of people coming through the doors with alcohol intoxication has increased. Nationally there are more than one million alcohol-related admissions costing billions of pounds to the NHS.
“It is a particular problem in the North East, where we have the highest rate of alcohol-related admissions in England.
“People who are intoxicated are very often abusive and uncooperative and can take up far more resources than other attendances.
“This can be extremely frustrating.
“You might need two doctors and two nurses to deal with an intoxicated and uncooperative individual who has nothing else wrong with them, while someone suffering from a stroke or heart attack requires urgent attention.
“For these patients every minute you’re not treating them is reducing their chance of survival.”
Dr Lambert also believes that attitudes towards alcohol are ingrained within life in Sunderland and they need to be changed in order to reverse the statistics and a worrying trend for increasingly younger drinkers.
She added: “People in this country tend to find being intoxicated quite funny and getting drunk is an acceptable part of growing up.
“Our main alcohol intoxicated attendances are 18 to 24 years of age and there is evidence that children are beginning to drink at a much younger age.
“Unfortunately we are seeing the consequences of this now with people in their late 20s and early 30s coming in with serious alcohol-related conditions that are more commonly seen in someone aged in their 40s or 50s.
“It can be really hard for staff to deal with when they are treating someone younger than themselves with end-stage liver disease, knowing that the person may be dead in the next few months or years.
“Balance’s campaign message ‘enough is enough’ is spot on – I don’t think you’ll find one member of staff in the emergency department who wouldn’t agree with that sentiment.”