Sandra Gidley (Romsey, Liberal Democrat)
“To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) male and (b) female teenagers were admitted to accident and emergency departments on grounds related to drunkenness in each month of (i) 2007 and (ii) the last five years, broken down by NHS trust; and what treatments they required, broken down by category.”
Dawn Primarolo (Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)
“We do not collect data relating to alcohol-related attendances at accident and emergency departments.” [Emphasis mine]
Tables have been placed in the Library which supply data for teenagers admitted to hospital [Emphasis mine] via accident and emergency with a primary diagnosis of T51 toxic effect of alcohol (i.e. more severe than general drunkenness and loss of inhibitions) for the last five years, broken down by gender and health care provider. The information provided in the tables does not include instances of the toxic effects of alcohol as secondary diagnosis.”
From the BBC
“The introduction of 24-hour drinking laws may have trebled alcohol-related admissions to A&E departments in inner city areas at night, a study claims.
Researchers at London's St Thomas' Hospital compared overnight visits before and after the 2005 law change.
There were 80 alcohol-related visits in March 2005. This hit 250 in 2006, the Emergency Medicine Journal said. “
We 'code out' all our calls. There are two or three numbers to write down that represent what has happened to our patient. The first number is the 'type of injury' code. So (from memory) – Code 01 is 'Illness known', 02 is 'illness unknown', 03 is 'fall', 14 is 'assault' and so on.
Then comes the injury code. 01 is 'abdominal pain', 75 is 'minor head injury', 69 is 'vomiting', 23 is 'epileptic seizure'.
'62' is alcohol related.
The small problem is that where someone has two types of injury, for example they had a seizure due to alcoholism and cracked their head open, there are only two boxes to write numbers. For the fitting head injury mentioned that would be as 57/75 ('fitting – other cause', 'head injury – minor'). There would be no place to write down the '62' – alcohol related.
Couple that with the problem that the boxes are very small and easily forgotten and are therefore are occasionally not filled in and you have an obvious lack of data on how alcohol affects A&E attendance.
There are some vague figures mentioned in parliament. But these are only for people admitted to hospital – not for that much more common breed of people who are treated and discharged or are allowed to sober up and make their own way home. Or for those that attend, are violent and are thrown out.
So the St Thomas' Hospital study is incredibly important, and should be going on nationwide. During nightshifts alcohol probably accounts for 40-60% of my work, half that during dayshifts. Yet it would seem that no-one is recording or studying the numbers and types of people using the NHS for this reason.
Again from the BBC
“Both the Department of Health and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which was behind the legislation [to increase licensing hours], were dismissive of the findings, noting that the study only related to one hospital in one particular month.”
So why isn't there a more widespread counting of the number of alcohol related attendance? Something done all year in all hospitals, something involving ambulance service trusts. Just a simple tickbox asking if we considered alcohol the cause of the injury or illness.
If it were recorded and studied, might it not make a difference in how we provision care, fund hospitals, amend licensing laws and tax alcohol?
Or is that why it's not done?