The impact of Covid-19 has been felt across the Trust and our communities, and now new data and research has revealed how consumption of alcohol rose in many areas.
We spoke with Simon Cook, Alcohol Liaison Nurse Specialist at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, at a time when his team was seeing an increase in numbers attending the service and were back to pre-covid levels.
Studies show that the British public bought an extra 12.6 million litres of alcohol in the financial year 2020/21, an increase of 24.4% on the previous year. This data was reflected in a Public Health England survey, ‘Wider Impacts of Covid-19 on Health’ which showed an increase of 58.6% of people reporting that they are drinking at increasing and higher risk levels (50 units a week for men, 35 units a week for women).
“A lot of the newer patients we are now seeing in hospital with alcohol-related health issues fit this category and many state that while they were furloughed there was little else to do but drink to relieve stress and boredom,” Simon said as he reflected on the data.
“Sadly, increased consumption of alcohol during the pandemic has occurred alongside increases in deaths. Alcohol-specific deaths increased by 20.0% in 2020 (from 5,819 in 2019 to 6,983) and alcohol-related liver disease accounted for just over 80.3% of all deaths in 2020. There was a rapid increase in the number of alcohol-related liver deaths, rising by 20.8% between 2019 and 2020, compared to a rise of 2.9% between 2018 and 2019.”
Unfortunately, Blackpool’s figures reflect poorly, both against the national picture, and regionally, and Simon is determined to continue a campaign of education and intervention, both within the Trust and in communities.
Simon said: “What we are trying to do is identify all those patients attending hospital whose alcohol use puts them in an increasing or higher risk category and providing them with education to help make them aware of the impact alcohol is having on their physical and mental health.
“In turn, this can help reduce their alcohol use and consequently the burden on the hospital over time. We know from studies that a simple five-minute brief intervention around alcohol use can encourage 1 in 8 patients to reduce their alcohol intake by around 20%.
“We’re currently in the process of developing a Liver Service for the trust and hope to get that off the ground in the coming months however its everyone’s responsibility, doctors and nurses, to help identify patients attending hospital who may be drinking more than the recommended 14 units per week.
“All patients need to have an AUDIT C alcohol use assessment completed as part of the admission process with referral to the ALN team for patients who are identified as having high risk or dependent alcohol use. We know that of the hospital population 1 in 5 patients are high risk alcohol users and 1 in 10 patients have an alcohol dependency.”