Alcohol: the financial and human cost to the region

The impact of alcohol is revealed in a new report. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Alcohol misuse is placing an 'unsustainable burden' on the region’s emergency departments and urgent care services, according to a new report by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

The report reveals that the cost of alcohol-related Emergency Department attendances at one of the region’s largest hospitals has been conservatively estimated at £1m per year.

However, it is not just the financial costs that are raising concerns.

Here is a summary of the toll alcohol misuse has on the region's medical staff, as well as the wider community:

  • Hospital staff experience physical, verbal and sexual assaults from patients under the influence of alcohol.

  • Emergency Department and urgent care staff have become “immersed in effects of alcohol” and “desensitized to its impact.”

  • Younger women in their 20's and 30's, and older people, are increasingly arriving in Emergency Departments with alcohol-related issues.

  • The problem is so great that some of the region’s larger EDs employ security guards to help maintain order.

  • Alcohol-related attendances account for 72% of cases on Fridays and Saturdays from 2am – 3am at Newcastle’s RVI.

  • Staff are said to be feeling under more pressure than ever, routinely working night shifts with no break and facing the constant threat of physical assault and verbal abuse.

  • This is can be exacerbated by the disruptive impact of intoxicated patients.

A senior Emergency Department consultant at Newcastle’s RVI noted:

“It’s not uncommon over the weekend to have a number of disruptive drunk patients being rude and in various states of undress, all of which has the potential to be distressing to other patients, particularly elderly or vulnerable groups. The department has invested significantly in a permanent security presence, seven days a week.”

Latest figures from Balance estimate that alcohol costs the NHS £2.7bn annually, with the North East figure totalling £242m, equating to £93 per person per year in the region.