Older people are seen by specialist alcohol service at Queen Alexandra Hospital

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MORE THAN a quarter of patients seen by a specialist alcohol service in Portsmouth are retired or aged 70 and over.

The Alcohol Specialist Nursing Service was launched in 2010.

It was created to help people coming into Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, with alcohol-related problems.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs QA – carried out an audit on the first 840 patients referred to the service between December 2010 and July 2011.

It found that 14 per cent of the people referred, listed their employment status as retired. A further 12 per cent that were seen were aged 70 or over.

Richard Aspinall, consultant hepatologist at QA, said the reason is because people in the two groups have been alcohol-dependent for longer.

He said: ‘These figures do not represent the chunk of the aging population, just the ones that have been referred to the service.

‘A lot of them will come in because they’ve had a fall or because they have long-term liver damage.

‘If that is because alcohol is a factor then they are referred to this service and seen as out-patients.’

The audit found that of those referred, the average units of alcohol consumed each week stood at 210.

The youngest person seen was aged 18, while the oldest 91.

‘There’s a combination of factors as to why older people are more dependent on alcohol,’ said Mr Aspinall.

‘Some may have started at a young age when they were part of a drinking lifestyle, but then they never let it go.

‘The bigger group is often those that have a psychological reason for drinking.

‘The big driver is loneliness, social isolation or bereavement.

‘The other reason is to help them get to sleep or help cope with pain from a chronic illness such as arthritis.

‘People can drink, but keep two or three days alcohol-free to enjoy a happy retirement.’