One out of seven hospital beds is filled by a drinker
ONE in every seven hospital beds in the Lothians is taken up by a patient who is ill through alcohol abuse, it has emerged. The statistic is the latest stark illustration of the rising cost of alcohol abuse to the NHS.
Included in the tens of thousands of people occupying beds in the ERI every year because of drink, are those with alcohol-related liver and heart problems as well as those whose binges end with them being hospitalised.
The figures, released through a parliamentary question from Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown, show that last year there were at least 33,554 bed days blamed on drink. Those statistics are only provisional, and could still rise.
It is estimated there are around 240,000 total bed days across NHS Lothian for all patients, meaning that 14 per cent could be avoided with sensible drinking.
Mr Brown said: “Alcohol misuse is increasingly becoming more and more of a drain on NHS Lothian resources and long term solutions are required to tackle the problem.
“What we require are plans that will tackle the blight that alcohol has on many, and today’s figures further highlight just how much work needs to be done. The number of acute bed days taken up by those aged over 60 are particularly shocking.
“While much of this will have to do with the accumulative effect of many years of drinking – this is further evidence, if any was needed, of why we need workable long-term solutions to tackle the blight of alcohol abuse across the Lothians so that it will put less of a strain on NHS Lothian resources.”
Over-60s took up by far the most bed days, with more than 16,000. Alarmingly, 185 “booze bed days” were for under-19s, while 831 were patients in their 20s.
The problem costs NHS Lothian more than £6 million a year, and undoubtedly has a knock-on effect on bed blocking and waiting lists.
Ross Finnie, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, warned that even if people did start drinking less, there was a huge backlog of health problems waiting to emerge.
Citing recent data on liver disease in Scotland, he said: “Changing Scotland’s drinking culture was never going to happen overnight.
“But I’m pleased that long-term health campaigns are now beginning to pay off.
“The massive jump in chronic liver disease is a reminder that even if we do change the drinking habits of this and the next generation, we will still have to treat the thousands of Scots whose habits didn’t and won’t change quick enough.”