Alcohol dependency at record high but fewer being treated, data shows
One in seven of 605,688 people needing help in England received treatment in 2016-17
12 Sep 2018
Fewer problem drinkers are receiving treatment even though record numbers need help, figures from the House of Commons library show.
Just 80,454 people in England were treated in 2016-17 for addiction to alcohol,about one in seven of the 605,688 people being deemed to be “alcohol dependent”.
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, who obtained the figures, blamed the dwindling number of people in treatment on government cuts to public health budgets.
“Tory austerity has meant cutting treatment services for some of the most vulnerable in our society. It is devastating, misguided and completely counterproductive,” said the shadow health minister.
“People addicted to alcohol are paying the price for this government’s cruel and reckless cuts to public health.”
The number of people being treated has fallen by 11,197 (12.2%) since 2013-14, when 91,651 received help. The decline has coincided with an increase in the number of people deemed alcohol dependent. It has risen every year from 581,780 in 2011-12 to 605,688 in 2016-17.
Ashworth, who has spoken candidly about his experience of being the son of an alcoholic father, will on Thursday commit a future Labour government to making expansion of services for those addicted to alcohol, drugs or both a key priority.
He will tell the national substance misuse conference in Birmingham that action is needed because alcohol leads to more than 1m admissions to hospital a year, while 200,000 children are growing up with an alcoholic parent.
Addiction services are also close to “breaking point” as the result of the £550m of cuts to public health budgets of local councils ordered by ministers since 2015 to give more money to overworked hospitals, Ashworth will say.
Analysis by Labour claims that town halls in England, which fund addiction work through their public health budgets, plan to reduce spending on help for people with alcohol and drug problems by a further £34m in 2018-19.
The British Medical Association is calling for tough measures to reduce public health problems, including obesity and problem drinking, in order to reduce the number of Britons dying prematurely.
Demand for NHS care could be cut by as much as 40% if ministers introduced minimum unit pricing of alcohol and took other “robust action”, the doctors union claims.
The BMA also wants a hike in the taxes on tobacco products, a comprehensive plan to tackle illness linked to people’s diets and crackdown on the marketing of foodstuffs high in fat, salt and sugar.
Such steps could cut the number of people developing or dying early from cancer, heart, lung and liver disease, as well as strokes, said Prof Dame Parveen Kumar, who chairs of the BMA’s board of science.
“Tragically, the failure to prioritise public health prevention continues to cost people their lives,” Kumar said, adding that much greater investment is need in services that tackle smoking, heavy drinking, physical inactivity and poor diet