Essex public health chiefs prepare to launch major offensive against alcohol misuse
12:59 05 July 2013
PUBLIC health chiefs are preparing to launch a major offensive against alcohol misuse in the county.
Essex County Council (ECC) has made the issue its first priority since it was given responsibility for commissioning public health services earlier this year and has put together a raft of proposals designed at improving the way alcohol-related problems are dealt with.
They include specialist nurses in A&E departments, more support for people who are trying to stop drinking and services focused on criminal offenders where alcohol is a factor.
Health chiefs say figures show alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased threefold in Essex in the last decade and that they want to introduce a more joined-up approach to the problem.
They say this can be achieved now that the council has a remit to oversee the provision of both social services and public health services because people with alcohol-related problems often require help from both departments.
The council intend to commission a full range of support services for people who require specialist interventions to help address their alcohol consumption. These also include the training of front line health staff to identify people with alcohol problems and deliver brief advice and community and residential rehabilitation for drinkers with significant dependency issues.
Director of public health, Mike Gogarty, said alcohol misuse was being made a priority because of the knock-on effect it has with other health issues.
He said: “Alcohol misuse is a key cause of a range of health problems - all of which are avoidable.
“We’ve seen a three-fold increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions over the past 10 years and we are reviewing our approach.”
He admitted that in the past health services relating to alcohol misuse “have not been as good as they could be”.
It is hoped the new set-up will be in place by April next year once ECC has received agreement for the plans and commissioned organisations with relevant experience to deliver the services. Mr Gogarty said he expected “a major recruitment programme” to commence in several months time.
The move has been welcomed by charities working in the sector.
Tom Fox, funding and development manager and drugs and alcohol support charity, Open Road, said: “Over recent years drug addiction has been the top priority but there needs to be more done for people with alcohol problems.
“Taking a more joined-up approach is important. Just as with drugs, alcohol does not just affect health, there are often problems with finding housing, family relations and getting access to training and work.”
Mr Fox said his organisation had already been involved in pilots schemes in A&E departments where specialist nurses have been placed to offer advice to people who have come in with alcohol-related problems, and refer them onto community services where appropriate.
Terry Martin, co-founder of Essex-based alcoHELP, a charity that seeks to prevent alcohol abuse through education, said it was also important to inform children of the dangers of alcohol misuse before they develop problems.
He added: “We welcome this additional support for those with alcohol dependency, especially rehabilitation services.
“However, we believe it is crucial to teach children and young people about the dangers of alcohol before it reaches this stage.
“Through our work in Essex schools we have met children as young as 12 who are binge drinkers, Every day in England, 13 children are admitted to hospital as a result of binge drinking, while alcohol-related liver disease and cancers are becoming increasingly common at an earlier age.”