Alcohol-related admissions in Sunderland have risen by 8.9 per cent on the previous year, according to new health data.
On Thursday, April 19, Sunderland City Council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee met at Sunderland Civic Centre to discuss a report on the council’s recent performance.
The report, providing statistics between October – December 2017, noted Sunderland’s alcohol-related admissions rate at 257.33 per 100,000 population – an increase of 8.9 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year.
This rate was also higher than the England average of 163.61 per 100,000 with the cost of alcohol harm in the city in 2015/16 being £403 per head compared to England average of £363.
Coun David Snowdon asked for more information on the reasons for the figures, describing them as “disappointing” and adding, “we’re fighting a losing battle.”
The council’s director of public health, Ms Gibson, said alcohol admissions are a “complex problem” with incidents ranging from young people admitted for their own safety to long-term drinkers developing liver problems.
She added that the issue was “no easy fix” but that work is ongoing with the council’s licensing team and other partners to create a “more joined up approach”.
“We’re doing all we can but it’s a hard one to check as it’s about behaviour change,” she added.
During the discussion of health statistics, Coun Patricia Smith raised concerns about some secondary schools refusing to offer C-Cards which allow teens to claim free condoms.
As previously reported, she said the local authority should find out why schools are objecting in the wake of rising teenage pregnancy rates in the city.
The latest data between July and September 2016, marked the rate of under 18 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged 15-17 at 35.7 – an increase on the previous quarter at 32.
The figure also remains higher than the rate for the North East at 22.5 and England at 17.7.
Ms Gibson, said that C-Card numbers in Sunderland have doubled over the last year but agreed that she wanted schools to adopt the service.
Referencing a public health service – set to start in July this year – she said “provision would be provided in the community if schools refuse to do that”.
She added that while recent quarterly data showed a spike, overall trends since 1998 have shown a “significant reduction” from 357 in 1998 to 135 in 2016.
“It’s 135 too many but we have made some quite good progress,” she said.
Director of North East alcohol awareness group Balance, Colin Shevills, said alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths are on the rise nationally.
“The worst health harms from alcohol are felt most by the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities,” he said.
“We have seen some positive signs in the North East – we have a higher awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer in the region and the highest rate of sign-ups for Dry January, while thousands of people took part in more days off alcohol as part of our recent campaign.”
He added: “However, more needs to be done and one of the biggest problems is the affordability of cheap alcohol sold at pocket money prices – the type of drinks popular with dependent drinkers and children.
“On May 1, Scotland will become the first country in the UK to introduce Minimum Unit Price to tackle this.”
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service