The number of hospital admissions where the primary diagnosis was liver disease rose by 22 per cent in the year to March 2022, according to the latest figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) – from 67,458 to 82,290. The number of admissions where the primary diagnosis was specifically alcoholic liver disease was up by almost 12 per cent over the same period, to 27,419.
As is the case with alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions, the highest rate was in the North East of England, while the rate of hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease was twice as high in men than women. There was a more than ten-fold difference in admission rates for alcoholic liver disease between the counties and unitary authorities with the highest rates and those with the lowest, OHID points out. ‘Liver disease is almost entirely preventable, with the major risk factors – alcohol, obesity and hepatitis B and C –accounting for up to 90 per cent of cases’ it states.
Liver disease admissions are up by 47 per cent compared to a decade ago, and the British Liver Trust is calling on the government to prioritise investment in prevention and early diagnosis – especially as the disease often has no symptoms in its early stages. ‘These figures once again demonstrate how action is needed,’ said the charity’s director of policy, Vanessa Hebditch. ‘The British Liver Trust is calling for a prompt and comprehensive review of adult liver services to address the huge variation and inequalities in liver disease treatment outcomes and care. The surge in hospital admissions emphasises the urgent need for immediate action to tackle the growing burden of liver disease on the NHS and society as a whole. By allocating resources to education, raising awareness, and promoting healthier lifestyles, we can collectively work towards reducing the burden of liver disease and improving the wellbeing of individuals across the country.’
The charity’s submission to the parliamentary health and social care committee inquiry into cancer care also points out that liver cancer is the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK, with liver disease the biggest factor for developing it. The document adds the charity’s voice to the call for a new and comprehensive alcohol strategy that ‘addresses the affordability, promotion and availability of alcohol, to reduce its harm and tackle health inequalities in the long term’.
Liver disease profiles, July 2023 update here
Written evidence by the British Liver Trust here