The number of alcohol-related visits to hospital has trebled since the introduction of 24-hour licensing laws in the UK, a study suggests.
The UK Government has been accused of failing to tackle binge drinking after doctors reported a big rise in alcohol-related injuries at a large inner city hospital in London.
A new study has revealed that alcohol related visits to hospital has gone up 300% since alcohol licensing laws were relaxed to allow 24 hour drinking. Tony Blair’s leadership was criticized over failing to do anything about binge drinking, after NHS staff reported a huge increase in hospital admissions caused by alcohol at several Southern England hospitals.
In November 2005, new licensing laws came into place allowing alcohol to be served 24 hours a day. This was designed to stop heavy alcohol consumption around closing times, which the police said was causing crime and stretching already tight resources. Researchers writing for a respected journal announced today that the new laws have achieved the opposite, with a huge rise in trips to hospitals through the night, almost all caused by alcohol abuse.
This study was led by Alastair Newton at a Southern England hospital. It centered on visits to Accident and Emergency Wards both before and after November 2005. In early 2005 in one month there were 2,700 admissions through the night, with 3% of them due to alcohol. 12 months later, there was 3,100 admissions, with 8.2% blamed on alcohol.
This increase was standard across several English hospitals, according to NHS nurses who reported to Healthadel.com under the condition of anonymity.
Political parties have said these results are “of a huge concern”, but the Department of Health have announced that their own research has so far not found any link between increased hospital admissions and 24 hour drinking.
The study included all adults who attended hospital between 8.30pm and 8.30am during each 31 day period. To be included as “drink related”, they would have needed to be drunk when seen by a doctor, admitted to drinking alcohol before attending hospital, or if any medical staff deemed them to be under the influence of alcohol.
Hospital admissions due to violence linked to alcohol also rose by 100% during the study, according to the researchers. There was 30 assaults reported at the hospital in one 31 day period in early 2005, this rose sharply to 68 in early 2006.
The study blamed this rise on the change in licensing laws. They have asked for long term assessments to allow the National Health Service and Law Enforcement to work out a strategy to combat the dangers of alcohol to public safety. “the rise in problems due to alcohol consumption we have noted is having the complete opposite effect that the law changes were supposed to bring about” they wrote. 24 hour drinking was also said to be hindering efforts with alcohol rehab.
“If this data is representative over the whole of England, the increase in hospital admissions will cause a huge problem to the NHS.”
This year, government statistics showed deaths in UK due to alcohol have approximately doubled since 1990. In 2005 17.9 males and 7.9 females per 100k had died as a direct result of alcohol. In 1990, only 8.7 males and 4.2 women per 100k died as a result of alcohol.
One campaigner for Alcohol Aware said “These changes to our licensing laws were never going to shift us to a “European” style of alcohol consumption. If Labour want to make our towns a safe place to live, they need to provide a better level of policing as well as dealing with these bizarre licensing laws.” They also called for shops selling only alcohol to start offering more non alcoholic beverages.
In reference to the study, a spokesman for the Government announced: “It is extremely misleading to say that this is an accurate representation of all of UK. Other reports have concluded the opposite, that the new laws have not caused any increase in the number of hospital visits.”