Statistics from NHS Wales Informatics Service reveal that hospital wards in Wales have to deal with more than 60,000 alcohol-attributed admissions each year. With alcohol consumption estimated to increase by 40% in December, Wales’ emergency services are preparing to deal with a sudden rise in admissions at its busiest time of year.
Choose Well, the NHS Wales campaign to boost public awareness about the range of health services, is encouraging people to think about the consequences that excess alcohol consumption can have on emergency resources.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Lesley Griffiths said:
“We all like to celebrate Christmas and the New Year and there is nothing wrong with enjoying a drink or two over the festive period. However, when too much alcohol is consumed, the fun can rapidly turn into accidents and injuries. This puts increased pressure on the NHS and is completely avoidable, as long as people drink responsibly.”
Paramedic Diana Phillips is supporting Choose Well to help reduce pressures on the service by demonstrating that there are other, more suitable ways of seeking help that may not involve dialling 999 or heading to the Emergency Department. This can include out-of-hour GPs, Minor Injury Units, NHS Direct Wales, pharmacies or even self care.
“There’s definitely more pressure on Emergency Departments these days and we do tend to see a high level of calls that are down to social issues, particularly those related to alcohol. People should only dial 999 for the ambulance service in life-threatening situations where patients require immediate treatment. Non-emergency calls increase demand on Emergency Departments, diverting valuable resources from those who really need them.”
The number of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions in Welsh hospitals equate to 1,200 a week. These can include cases of alcohol poisoning, liver disease, falls and road traffic accidents which can be caused by alcohol misuse. In the last financial year the number of these admissions was highest in the cities with large populations such as Cardiff (6,082), Swansea (4,865) and Newport (3,286). However, when comparing like with like, the rates are highest in Blaenau Gwent, with around 2,300 admissions1 per 100,000 population, whereas the rate in Cardiff was 1,700 per 100,000 population and in Swansea 1,670 per 100,000.
Alcohol Concern Cymru manager, Andrew Misell, said:
“At this time of year, we need to be mindful how our drinking habits can affect Emergency Services. With the Christmas party season just around the corner we want to encourage people to be aware of how much they are drinking and make more informed festive drinking and lifestyle choices.”