Too much of the hard stuff: what alcohol costs the NHS

SAVE ITEM
publication

23 / 12 / 2009

Consumption of alcohol in the UK has increased by 19 per cent over the last three decades. Recent reports indicate that 10.5 million adults in England drink above sensible limits and around 1.1 million have a level of alcohol addiction. Alcohol is the third leading cause of disease burden in developed countries and, as a result, the cost of providing alcohol-related services is escalating. The burden on the NHS will be unsustainable if this continues.

This Briefing, produced with the Royal College of Physicians, outlines the extent of the problem and gives examples of where the NHS is managing problem drinkers effectively and efficiently. The NHS Confederation visited hospitals between August and November 2009 and gathered evidence from members to gain an understanding of the extent of the burden and the ways in which hospitals can improve their services.

On a previous version of this document we erroneously said that alcohol consumption in the UK was now ‘higher than in any European country’. This sentence was incorrect and has now been removed. We also said that ‘in 2006/07 alone, alcohol was estimated to have accounted for £2.7 billion of NHS expenditure. This is almost double the figure in 2001, when the total cost was £1.47 billion’. Please note that this figure is cash and the real terms increase was 35 per cent. We apologise for any confusion.

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