PHE: alcohol treatment ‘performing well overall’

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The treatment system for alcohol dependence among adults in England is ‘performing well overall’, with increasing numbers of people accessing and completing treatment, according to Public Health England (PHE). 

There are around 110,000 people in specialist alcohol treatment, although it is ‘vital to continue to widen the availability and accessibility’ of support, says PHE. Approximately 1.6m people are estimated to have some level of alcohol dependence, with roughly 250,000 thought to be moderately or severely dependent and in need of intensive treatment.

Most people seeking treatment are in the 30-54 age range, with a total of 109,683 people treated in 2012-13, up from 108,906 the previous year. Almost 76,000 were new clients and 58 per cent successfully completed their treatment, says PHE.

It was vital that treatment was easily accessible, said PHE’s director of alcohol and drugs, Rosanna O’Connor, with the full range of NICE-recommended options available and services ‘properly joined up with the NHS and other partners, including mutual aid groups. Prevention is better than cure, and PHE is working to support a range of initiatives,’ she said. These included better identification of those at risk, improvements in hospital-based alcohol services and use of local health information by councils to inform licensing decisions.

Meanwhile the Irish government has committed itself to minimum unit pricing in its forthcoming Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, along with measures to toughen regulation of marketing and sponsorship. It will also consult with the Northern Irish authorities to make sure there are no significant differences in pricing structure over the border. The British government shelved its plans to introduce minimum pricing earlier this year.

‘Alcohol misuse in Ireland is a serious problem with two thousand of our hospital beds occupied each night by people with alcohol-related illness or injury,’ said Irish health minister Dr James Reilly. ‘The average Irish person over the age of 15 is consuming the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week. The government is committed to tackling these problems and this week’s decision marks a significant further step in that direction to create an environment where responsible consumption of alcohol is the norm.’

Recent research by Drinkaware found that almost half of 10 to 14-year-olds had seen their parents drunk, the charity has announced. ‘While setting rules about alcohol and speaking to children about the risks is a positive step, equally important is that parents understand their significant influence as role models and feel confident to set a good example,’ said chief executive Elaine Hindal.

Alcohol treatment figures at www.nta.nhs.uk/statistics.aspx