Boozing costs Gwent NHS £15m a year
1:40pm Monday 19th November 2012 in News
People do not know the number of units contained in drinks, report says ALCOHOL-related illness costs the NHS in Wales around £70 million a year - and some £15m of that is spent in Gwent.
And though a new survey suggests most people in Wales appear to know how many units of alcohol it is safe to drink daily, this more often than not gets lost in translation, with many under-estimating the number of units in beer and wine.
The estimated cost of the effects of alcohol to the NHS in Wales comes at the start of Alcohol Awareness Week, and is based on patterns of health service use, from the impact on A&E departments of those coming in with drink-related injuries, to treatment and care of longer term conditions - such as cancer, heart and liver disease, obesity - which can in some cases be linked at least in part to alcohol consumption.
The impact on Gwent's health budget is an estimate, based on factors such as the proportion of alcohol-related and alcohol-attributed admissions to hospitals, the amount of alcohol-linked deaths, incidence of disease and poor lifestyle linked to alcohol consumption, and the amount of referrals for help for alcohol problems, all compared to Wales as a whole.
Taking these together, around a fifth of the total cost of alcohol-related illness in Wales can be traced to Gwent, a figure close to £15m.
Many reports have been issued in Wales in recent years, by a variety of organisations, highlighting the heavy toll that alcohol takes on health. The survey on knowledge of alcohol units was carried out Wales-wide for the Welsh Government-backed Change4Life campaign, which aims to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles.
The majority of more than 1,000 people surveyed across Wales knew the number of units of alcohol the average person could safely drink on a daily basis, two-three units for women and three to four units for men.
However, most under-estimated how many units there are in beer and wine, the two most popular alcoholic drinks:
• 78 per cent under-estimated the units in a standard 175ml glass of wine (2.3);
• 74 per cent under-estimated the units in a large 250ml glass of wine (3..3);
• 76 per cent under-estimated the units in a pint of strong beer (three);
• 52 per cent under-estimated the units in a can of ordinary strength beer (two). Binge drinking has been and remains a major cause of alcohol-related illness and violence in Wales, but there is also a fear now that a lack of knowledge about alcohol intake generally could be storing up health problems for the future for many who do not believe they are creating problems for themselves.
The survey was carried out as part of the Change4Life campaign called ‘Don’t let drink sneak up on you’. Wales' chief medical officer Dr Ruth Hussey said the lack of knowledge about the units in different drinks is worrying, especially given a growing trend towards stronger alcoholic drinks and larger glasses.
"This is about raising awareness, about people knowing what their limit looks like, and being conscious of having a bigger or an extra glass," she said.
"Since alcohol is so much a part of people's lives, it is easy for it to become a little too much.
"Harm related to alcohol has increased, and this is about avoidable harm."