Drink is factor in fifth of intensive care patients

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ALMOST a fifth of patients in intensive care are in hospital because of alcohol, a survey has revealed.

Staff on Queen Alexandra Hospital’s intensive care unit carried out a six-month audit to show the burden alcohol was putting on the department.

This showed that of the 550 patients treated by intensive care staff from September 2010 to February this year, 104 were in hospital because of alcohol.

In some cases intensive care staff were able to help treat and stabilise the patient in A&E so they didn’t need a stay on the intensive care unit.

But 71 of the 104 patients did need to be admitted to the ward because they were so ill and needed the highest level of hospital care – including vital organ support and a ventilator.

The hospital says problem drinking is costing the local NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

David Pogson, a consultant in critical care medicine at QA, said: ‘People need to know just how big a problem this is.

‘We’re definitely seeing more alcohol admissions in Portsmouth and on the intensive care unit, people seem to be staying longer and needing more support. Alcohol-related admissions are a huge resource burden on the unit – and it’s an increasing burden.

‘If it carries on we will need further resources in Portsmouth.’

Dr Pogson also says alcohol admissions are putting a financial strain on intensive care, costing the unit £450,000 a year.

He added: ‘A bed on intensive care costs about £1,800 a day. It’s the most expensive part of the hospital. People may not realise the extra cost to the health service of dealing with alcohol problems.’

As reported in The News last week, a top consultant warned extensive amounts of drinking were leading to an increase in cases of liver disease at QA.

Liver disease is a cause of patients being admitted to intensive care.

But the audit showed people are also admitted because excess alcohol has led to internal bleeding, pancreatitis, or the patient has had an accident because of drink, or they are just so drunk they are comatose and need to be on a ventilator.

Michelle Scott, a specialist registrar on the intensive care unit at QA, carried out the audit.

She said: ‘As part of my training I’ve had to work at other hospitals and I noticed Portsmouth seemed to be worse for alcohol admissions, so I decided to look into it. The audit results show the true extent of the problem.’

Other findings of the audit include that the 71 patients who stayed on intensive care during the six months accumulated a combined total of 346 bed days, and 14 per cent of the patients died.

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