Let’s keep up work to help those hooked on drinking

COMMENT: Small victory in a business full of pitfalls for customers

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You can prove anything with statistics, and one side’s good news is another side’s proof of disaster.

And the figures that we report today, about alcohol-related hospital admissions, seem at first glance as if they are a whitewash by the people in power.

When you look at the statistics, they show that more people were taken to hospital because of booze in 2013-14 than the previous 12 months. How on earth can this be good news?

However, in this case the authorities’ explanations are worth listening to. They say they are heartened – or at least as heartened as you can be by tales of hospital admissions – because the rate per 100,000 is not rising as fast as it is nationally. And no longer do we carry the unwanted ‘worst in the region’ tag.

As we have reported many times before, QA is stretched by the number of admissions to its accident and emergency department. It’s certainly seeing many more thousands of people a year than it was in 2009, so the fact that the total number admitted due to alcohol has gone up is a natural consequence.

As former QA governor Will Purvis says today, Portsmouth has long-standing issues with alcohol. A pub on every corner and a naval base make for a drinking culture. It’s too late to save many of those who inflicted damage on themselves in the 1960s or 1970s – although that is not to say that they should be denied treatment – but as a society there are things that can be done.

We can look at making sure shops do not sell booze too cheaply.

And, as QA has started doing, patients attending any department of the hospital who turn out to have a problem can be referred to the alcohol team – even if they came in for something completely different. More openness is also key.

While every one of the admissions counted in today’s figures is unfortunate, and several are no doubt tragic, it’s not an impossible job to reduce the rate. Let’s hope continuing education, medical care and attention can start to see this area with a dropping rate, not just a slowing one.

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